Saving Water in Our City Parks

Every Drop Counts campaign

Maintaining beautiful, green park spaces in drought conditions is no simple task, and as an agency that stewards over 4,000 acres of public park land and as one of the largest water users in the city, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department takes its responsibility to conserve water seriously.

Since 2008, our department has achieved an 18 percent reduction in water usage in a concerted effort to conserve our precious resources.

Perhaps one of our Department’s most notable efforts to save water in our parks is tied to our Significant Natural Areas Management Plan, which outlines strategic management practices for natural resource protection, habitat restoration, trail and access improvements, capital projects and maintenance in 32 designated areas in our system. By restoring these areas to their native state and protecting biodiversity in these 1,100 acres, the need for irrigation and landscaping is significantly reduced.

Grants from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have allowed us to improve our irrigation infrastructure at Jefferson Square, Alta Plaza and Balboa Park, saving an estimated 5.2 million gallons of water per year.

Monies from the voter-approved 2008 and 2012 neighborhood parks bonds have funded upgrades to playground irrigation and drainage systems that have significantly reduced our water usage—check out the new bio-retention pond at Cayuga Playground that captures storm water overflow or the new living roof at Hayes Valley Playground.

cayuga water conservation

We’ve also introduced more permeable paving and drought-resistant landscaping in our parks, and our use of synthetic turf in the renovation of several city sports fields has allowed us to drastically reduce the need for water in their upkeep (while at the same time adding 75,000 hours of additional playtime capacity).

Our move to the use of recycled water at TPC Harding Park Golf Course and Sharp Park Golf Course has also resulted in significant water savings.

Doing More

As of February 3, 2014, the Department has instituted measures to reduce water consumption by an additional 10 percent to meet the City’s goals.  Here’s how we’re doing that:

1) Reducing our irrigation operating times by 10 percent

2) Turning off recreational water features that do not have closed water recirculation systems at:

  • -Mission Playground
  • -24th & York Mini-Park
  • -Julius Kahn Playground
  • -Lafayette Park
  • -Golden Gate Park Koret Children’s Quarter

3) Reducing the running time of decorative fountains and landscape water features at:

  • -Golden Gate Park Music Concourse
  • -Vaillancourt Fountain at Embarcadero Plaza
  • -Huntington Park
  • -Kidpower Park
  • -Potrero del Sol


4) Prioritizing water loss repairs

5) Immediately shutting down irrigation systems that have been vandalized or that are inoperable until repairs can be made

6) Reducing our water usage by 10 percent at recreation and aquatic facilities

7) Refraining from washing vehicles and equipment

Here’s How You Can Help:

Help conserve water in our parks by not leaving water running, playing with water, or over-flushing.

Notify us immediately by calling 3-1-1 if you see leaking water or wayward sprinklers.

Bring hand sanitizer to our parks when possible.