Active Alerts

If you are experiencing a water, power, or sewer emergency or service problem call our 24-hour hotline at 3-1-1 or (415) 701-2311 from outside SF or log on at Learn more or review active service alerts.

How a San Francisco Drain Becomes Part of the Family

Person in black rainboots standing next to cleared storm drain
  • Sabrina Suzuki

Nestled on the bottom of a steep San Francisco hill is ‘Donna’ the drain.

Elizabeth Heidues, SFPUC Drain Adopter
Elizabeth Heidues, Drain Adopter

“One time someone dumped wallpaper paste or some kind of white hardened stuff into Donna. I had to scrape it off her grate with a silverware knife. That is the one time I got fed up with the mistaken notion anything can be dumped into a drain.”

Elizabeth Heidues has been a part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)’s, Adopt a Drain Program since January 2017. She wants to share her story in the hopes to encourage others to adopt a drain themselves.

“I’ve never owned a car; I bike, I walk or take public transportation. Being in the streets of San Francisco all the time, I’ve encountered clogged drains. I wanted to do something with my growing frustration. It was the perfect way for me to get off on the right foot in the new year.”

Elizabeth learned about the Adopt a Drain Program after she picked up a free SFPUC Pollution Prevention Calendar from her local garden store in 2017. 

“In the calendar’s very first page, in the month of January, there was a written invitation to adopt a drain through SFPUC’s wastewater division. I responded.”

And for Elizabeth, the rest is history. 

“My drain has given me a lot to contemplate about managing stormwater. At first, I worked hard to clean up Donna. But once I worked out a system, maintaining her became a lot easier, exclaimed Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth Heidues, SFPUC Drain Adopter

Every drain adopter seems to have a unique reason as to why they named their drain the way they did. Elizabeth considers ‘Donna the drain’ part of the family.

“I named my drain Donna for two reasons: For one, Donna is situated on a steep hill. When it rains , everything is swept “DOWN-A the Drain”! Since I am half Italian, this pronunciation was perfect for my adopted drain. “DOWN-A the Drain” really describes what happens to the trash that is swept down the gutter with the cascading rain and deposited into Donna. Secondly, I named my drain after my sister Donna, my only sibling. My sister is a native San Franciscan, just like me. Naming a hard-working drain after my sister seemed an appropriate way to honor her grit for living harmoniously off the land and reducing her impact on the planet.”

Elizabeth has a lot of things to say about her drain and takes it personally when she finds discarded face masks and gloves littering the streets.

“Personal Protection Equipment has put a big glitch in our environmental program, and the human impact on the environment has gotten worst. The gloves and masks discarded on our streets are going to be with us for a long time, and while masks are mandatory, people need to start thinking about using re-usable masks.”

On the flip side of things, Elizabeth has literally found that ‘someone’s trash is another one’s treasure.’

“One time I found an unusually large transparent marble with glittery stuff suspended in it resting on her grate.”

Elizabeth says that while she recognizes that we are in a pandemic, she hopes drain adopters won’t abandon their drain.

“My drain is part of my family; it’s named after my sister after all.”

Sabrina Suzuki