Stormwater Management Toolkit: Urban Watershed Planning Game

As part of the Stormwater Management Toolkit, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) developed the Urban Watershed Planning Game. This game helps the SFPUC understand community priorities by presenting a diverse group of community members with the task of updating San Francisco’s sewer system. The game fosters the development of green infrastructure solutions that help San Francisco adapt to the impacts of climate change in a financially feasible, community driven manner.  This game is a great resource for city planners, watershed managers, public engagement officers, and citizens.

The game educates community members on:

  • the various challenges facing the SF sewer system,
  • green vs. grey infrastructure, and
  • the benefits and limitations of available solutions.

Players must selected among 12 green and grey infrastructure solutions (or "game pieces") to address stormwater management challenges in one of eight of San Francisco's watersheds. Solutions include rain gardens, permeable paving and underdrained permeable paving, flow-through planters, vegetated roofs, blue roofs, constructed wetlands, storage pipes, detention tanks, rainwater harvesting, creek daylighting, and conveyance pipes.

The stormwater managed techniques fall into four categories based upon their performance type:

  • Sink it (retention): Holds stormwater and infiltrates it.
  • Slow it (detention): Holds stormwater flow and slowly releases to sewer system after the storm
  • Reuse it (storage and reuse): collects stormwater for non-potable water demands.
  • Move it (conveyance): Directs flow to a downstream area for storage.

Players are asked to identify appropriate locations for different solutions to enhance stormwater management in their watershed. Each game piece has an associated costs and benefits that are outlined in the game instructions. A scorekeeper calculates the benefits and costs of the selected options to determine whether the solutions will meet management goals within available budgets.

The game was designed to help the SFPUC determine how to allocation funding for a 20-year, multi-billion dollar sewer system improvement plan for upgrading the cities aging sewer system in a way that addresses community priorities and meets service goals. SFPUC's service goals included: providing a compliant, reliable, resilient and flexible system that can respond to catastrophic events; integrates green and grey approaches; provides benefits to impacted communities; modifies the system to adapt to climate change; achieves economic and environmental sustainability; and maintains ratepayer affordability. Using the game, SFPUC was able to determine community preferences for how to upgrade the cities stormwater system.  


Publication Date: June 1, 2013

Related Organizations:

  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Related Toolkits:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Engagement
  • Tool (general)

States Affected:


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