"By letting water go where water wants to go, by following the path of our watersheds and by valuing rainwater instead of seeing it as something to get rid of immediately, we ensure healthy watersheds for future generations."
Linda Hunter, Executive Director, The Watershed Project

Greening Urban Watersheds

Restoring native and natural flows, flowers and function of local watersheds

You can see the Bay Area’s vast network of freeways on most maps. But there is an equally important network of hidden, natural freeways that carries water from local hills, valleys and fields to the San Francisco Bay. The Greening Urban Watersheds Initiative seeks to protect that hidden network.

We help communities plan and implement strategies such as bioswales, rain gardens and low-impact design projects that protect local watersheds from the pollution generated by modern life. These collaborative efforts help ensure the free flow of local creeks, reduce urban runoff, promote the spread of native plants and improve the natural beauty and biodiversity of our urban watersheds. They also are beautiful; they soften the harshness of an urban setting beset by paved streets and sidewalks.


We train and coordinate volunteer restoration projects and advocacy efforts in several communities and watersheds, including:

  • Wildcat, Rheem, Garrity and San Pablo Creek Stewardship Projects
  • The Richmond Greenway Habitat Garden and Bioswale Project
  • Native plant installation and invasive plant removal efforts throughout the Bay Area
  • Oakland Rain Barrel Program
  • Alice Fong Yu School Rainwater Harvesting System
  • Research and planning for future low-impact design projects (bioretention, tree basins, infiltration trenches, permeable pavement, vegetated roofs, rainwater harvesting, detention ponds, constructed wetlands)
  • Workshops on greening urban watersheds
  • Displays at fairs, festivals, symposiums and conferences

    By reaching students today, we are teaching tomorrow’s public officials, environmental engineers and concerned citizens how to build and maintain cities that coexist with nature. We offer:

  • Kids in Gardens program for elementary school students and teacher-training workshops
  • Service-learning field trips for middle and high school students
  • Curriculum development

    Influencing urban design means collaborating with local communities, agencies and organizations. We:

  • Belong to the Growing School Gardens Coalition
  • Collaborate with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission and East Bay Municipal Utility District
  • Advocate for watershed planning efforts in the Bay Area


    We all know fresh, clean water is a precious and scarce resource. But what can one person do? Plenty! Choose among these many options for action--you are sure to find several that suit your lifestyle and home landscape. Many individual actions build upon each other, to create a community that is resilient to California’s recurring droughts:

  • 10 Plus! Water Saving Tips – You may have seen some of these before, but have you done them ALL?
  • Plant List for Green Gardening with Less Water – Our favorites for East Bay landscapes, with a handy chart of color, size, growing conditions, and as a bonus most attract birds and butterflies.
  • Low Water Gardening Resources – Where to find plants, water-conserving irrigation supplies, and additional information.
  • Sheet Mulching Basics – A low cost and environmentally friendly way to convert a lawn or other high water landscape.
  • Rainwater Harvesting Garden – You can catch your own rain to use in your garden, and help our creeks at the same time by reducing peak flows.