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Drought Over; Efficient Water Use Remains Critical

As recovery from California’s drought continues, keep conserving and avoid wasteful water use practices.

Learn how with Conservation Tips for Residents and Conservation Tips for Businesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are we still in a drought?
  2. Are any water use restrictions still in effect?
  3. How can I continue to conserve?
  4. How can I check if my home or business is wasting water through leaks?
  5. What should I do if I see water waste occurring?
  6. Can businesses and apartment buildings clean their sidewalks and plazas with water? 
  7. Can pressure washing be performed in San Francisco?
  8. What are the best ways to clean sidewalks? 
  9. Are City trucks and workers allowed to clean City streets and sidewalks? 
  10. Can lawns and gardens be watered? 
  11. Can restaurants serve water to customers? 
  12. Can I wash my car at home? 

No. In response to extensive statewide snow and rain and conservation efforts, on April 7, 2017 Governor Brown lifted the state's emergency drought regulations, while maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices. Similarly, in consideration of its water supply conditions, on April 11, 2017 the SFPUC lifted its call for customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 percent and ended mandatory reductions for dedicated irrigation customers with interruptible rates. We continue to offer free services, supplies and other incentives to help homes and businesses save water and money now and for the future.  For more information about the SFPUC's water supply conditions, see our weekly reservoir storage and precipitation level updates.

2. Are any water use restrictions still in effect?

Yes, the following prohibitions against wasteful water use remain in effect and are permanent: 

  • Watering outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff to sidewalks, streets, and hardscapes;
  • Using a hose, without a shut-off nozzle, for any purpose;
  • Washing sidewalks, driveways, plazas, and other outdoor hardscapes for reasons other than health, safety, or to meet City of San Francisco standards for sidewalk cleanliness and in a manner that causes runoff to storm drains and sewer catch basins;
  • Using drinking water for soil compaction, dust control, or other non-essential construction purposes if non-potable water is available
  • Watering outdoor landscapes with potable water during and within forty-eight (48) hours after a rain event;
  • Watering with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians; 
  • Irrigation of landscapes outside of new homes and buildings in a non-efficient manner; 
  • Using drinking water in non-recirculating fountains or decorative water devices;  
  • Serving water at restaurants without customer request; and 
  • Not providing hotel guests the option to reuse towels and linens.

3. How can I continue to conserve?
Whether you rent or own, pay your own water bill, or use water in a home, apartment, business, or other type of facility, there are plenty of ways to avoid waste and ensure your water use is efficient. Learn how with Conservation Tips for Residents or Conservation Tips for Businesses.

4. How can I check if my home or business is wasting water through leaks? 
Visit our home leaks page for tips and a guidebook on how to identify and repair common leaks including toilets, faucets, showerheads, and irrigation systems. Select standard toilet repair parts are provided free from the SFPUC, and are available to pick up at our Customer Service counter (located at 525 Golden Gate Avenue) during business hours Monday – Friday. Performing a manual read on the water meter while all water fixtures and irrigation systems are turned off can also help identify silent leaks such as worn toilet flappers and breaks in the main water supply line leading into your home.

Register or log in to My Account to view your household’s daily water use reports. Sudden unexplained increases in water use could mean a plumbing or irrigation system leak has developed or some other unusual water use is occurring.

5. What should I do if I see water waste occurring? 

We encourage you to talk with your neighbors and the establishments you frequent to let them know about the importance of conserving water and water-saving assistance available through the SFPUC. You may also report a potential violation of water waste restrictions by submitting an online complaint through www.sf311.org/ or by calling 311. The SFPUC reviews these reports and, depending on the accuracy of information provided and the situation, may issue a notification and contact the site. It is important to note that not all visible water use is wasteful or means that a home or building’s overall water use is inefficient. Multiple complaints made by the same person for the same situation will not elevate its importance.

6. Can businesses and apartment buildings clean their sidewalks and plazas with water? 
Using water to wash sidewalks and hardscapes should be limited to address immediate health and safety needs and to meet City of San Francisco standards for sidewalk cleanliness. Brooms and other non-water using equipment should be used for general maintenance purposes. If washing with water is necessary, spot wash only the areas of immediate need with a wet mop, a pressure washer, or a hose equipped with a water-efficient spray nozzle and stop before runoff to sewer and storm drains occurs. The SFPUC provides free automatic shut-off nozzles. 

7. Can pressure washing be performed in San Francisco?
Pressure or power washing can still be done to address immediate health and safety needs or for cleaning the sides and windows of buildings, as long as it is done efficiently and without causing runoff. Any use of water that causes runoff into storm drains or catch basins is prohibited. Mobile washers should obtain a permit from the SFPUC to ensure they are following best practices to avoid water waste and pollutant discharge.

8. What are the best ways to clean sidewalks? 
Brooms and non-water using methods should be used as much as possible, following the guidelines below. Violations may occur if water is used inefficiently. Per wastewater regulations, water runoff from hardscape washing, as well as disposal of trash, debris, hazardous and other materials into storm drains or catch basins is never allowed and could result in further penalties. Download Sidewalk Cleaning Tips Here

  • Pick up or sweep up waste materials, trash, food and debris and dispose of it in trash bins.
  • Use liners in compost and trash bins to avoid needing to rinse bins with water.
  • Use water sparingly to spot wash areas where substances have accumulated. The most efficient methods are a wet mop or a pressure washer with a maximum flow rate of 1.6 gallons per minute. If a hose is used, it must be equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
  • Never use water to push debris into the street, gutter, storm drains or neighboring properties.
  • Never run water continuously.
  • Never wash restaurant floor mats and equipment on sidewalks or in alleys. All food establishment equipment must be washed in facilities with grease traps.
  • Obtain a permit from the SFPUC if you are or use a mobile washer business.

9. Are City trucks and workers allowed to clean City streets and sidewalks? 
Yes. The Department of Public Works (DPW) cleans streets for public health and safety purposes and respond to 311 service requests for removal of human and animal waste on sidewalks and plazas. DPW employees, wearing yellow DPW vests and protective gear, use low-flow pressure washing equipment with disinfectant to spot clean public areas where health and safety situations have been identified.

A city worker removing waste for health and safety purposes.

DPW’s larger street cleaning vehicles, known as flusher trucks, use recycled water for a portion of their work. In addition, SFPUC wastewater maintenance trucks use recycled water for sewer flushing.


A city vehicle using reclaimed water to flush sewers. 

10. Can lawns and gardens be watered? 

Yes, as long as no runoff onto sidewalks, hardscapes, or storm drains occurs; and potable water is not used within 48 hours after a rain event. For a typical San Francisco property, watering once or twice a week may be sufficient. For lawn and other plantings on steeply sloped areas, watering should be done in multiple start times to avoid runoff. For example, if you normally water for 10 minutes, adjust the schedule to water for 5 minutes, turn off for an hour, and then water again for another 5 minutes. This allows the area to absorb water before running off. Download Efficient Watering Tips Here. Consider long-term changes to your garden that will result in less water, such as replacing grass or high water use plants with drought-tolerant species or converting to drip irrigation. The SFPUC provides many resources and incentives, including a free Water-Wise Gardening for San Francisco guidebook.

11. Can restaurants serve water to customers? 
Yes, but it should be upon customer request. The SFPUC provides “water upon request” signage free to restaurants. Contact (415) 551-4730 or waterconservation@sfwater.org for copies.

12. Can I wash my car at home?
We recommend washing cars at commercial car washes, because many recycle their water and dispose of pollutants safely. Any washing at home should be done with a sponge and bucket, or a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle and no water runoff to the sidewalk and street should occur. See our Guide to Car Washing in SF.


Last updated: 4/12/2017 10:14:57 AM