Rainwater Management: 
Green Infrastructure

“Green Infrastructure” is infrastructure that uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier ecosystems and urban environments.  This page provides videos, technical guidance, and other resources to help implement green infrastructure projects for rainwater harvesting (rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens, and more) and stormwater management (bioretention areas, bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavement, among other options).

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  • At the scale of a city or county, green infrastructure refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provide habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water.
    • Projects may include wetland preservation, protection of open spaces, and curb cuts to help redirect rainwater from the street into landscapes.
  • At the scale of a neighborhood or project site, green infrastructure refers to stormwater management systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water.
    • Projects may include permeable parking lots and green roofs.
       
  • At the residential scale, rain gardens that treat and temporarily retain runoff from downspouts and driveways are the most applicable and accessible type of green infrastructure to install yourself.
    • Projects may include rain barrels and rain gardens.

Green infrastructure provides many benefits to the community. In addition to improving water quality, green infrastructure is also viewed as an outlet to create or enhance recreational and public use areas by creating attractive streetscapes and habitat, reducing the heat island effect, and increasing accessibility for multiple modes of transportation.

Click here for examples throughout Santa Clara County to inspire your own projects!  For an overview of these exciting opportunities to conserve water while creating healthier ecosystems within our communities, click here. Or click here for a more technical yet accessible overview.

Sustainable Landscapes vs. Conventional Landscapes - What's the difference?

Conventional landscapes tend to feature plants that need lots of water or may need frequent use of gasoline-powered equipment to manage them properly. Also, conventional landscapes often rely on pesticides and fertilizers to promote healthy growth. Rain or excess irrigation water can transport these pollutants down street gutters and into storm drains, which empty directly into the nearest creek and the San Francisco Bay. Such pollution is harmful to fish, wildlife, and human health.  

Comprehensive list of creek-friendly improvements to your yard

Capture Rainwater

Your yard can actually retain and clean rainwater. Capturing and storing rainwater reduces the need for irrigation with precious drinking water. Using permeable pavement, rain gardens, swales, or dry creek beds, you’ll help reduce peak runoff during rain events, allowing the soil to soak up rainfall and give soil microbes a chance to filter some of the pollutants. These features may also add a unique, creative look to your landscape.  

Prevent Water Pollution

Learn how to prevent water pollution, indoors and out.  

Household Hazardous Waste

Do you have Household Hazardous Waste (pesticides, herbicides, oils, cleaners, etc.) to dispose of? Visit www.hhw.org or call (408) 299-7300 to make an appointment for a free drop-off.


HOW TO INSTALL A PROJECT

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Rain barrel and cisterns for smaller projects.

Raingardens and Bioretention areas

Direct Stormwater to your Landscape: Designs & Techniques

Pervious Pavement Material Guide

How to Videos:


For developers, builders, and project applicants to meet local municipal requirements for stormwater management projects: 

§  Chapter 6: Stormwater Treatment and Design Measures

§  Appendix D: Plant List and Planting Guidance

Fact sheets, Green Building information, and other resources from the City of Palo Alto

Still have questions? Check out the UC Master Gardener’s rain garden blog for additional overviews, resources, and guidance.


PREVENT STORMWATER POLLUTION

Prevent water pollution and water waste with these tips for safely disposing of household waste, home repair, and more:

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How You Can Help:

To report illegal discharges or accidental releases to a storm drain, drainage ditch or culvert in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County, please call (408) 918-4600 or email CleanwaterSCC@aem.sccgov.org.

Do you have Household Hazardous Waste (pesticides, herbicides, oils, cleaners, etc.) to dispose of? Visit www.hhw.org or call (408) 299-7300 to make an appointment for a free drop-off. 

Additional tips for your home and additional information to report illegal dumping in or near storm drains, creeks, or hazardous waste recycling can be found here.

The Watershed Management Initiative coordinates efforts to keep pollution out of the San Francisco Bay.

For more information on green roofs, rain gardens, infiltration trenches, pervious surfaces, creek-friendly improvements, and other stormwater improvements, click here.

Watershed Watch Campaign to Protect our Creeks and Bay


RESOURCES FOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS & PLANNERS

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The following resources developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is geared toward municipalities to assist implementation and evaluation of rainwater harvesting, stormwater management, and other green infrastructure.


OTHER AGENCY GUIDES

Please see the Santa Clara County resources above. The guides below should be for reference only: