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Girl watering plants

Schools save 21,000 gallons of water


One early Tuesday morning in February, first graders at Fairmount Elementary gathered in their schoolyard garden to sing about water. More specifically, they sang about precipitation, condensation, and evaporation—also known as the water cycle. Then they grabbed watering cans and watered their growing crop of kale, carrots and flowers.

Eco-friendly system

But this was special water they were using, because it didn’t come from the usual source. Instead, they pulled rainwater right from the school’s own cistern, or water tank, to fill their pails. SFUSD began installing cisterns in schoolyard gardens more than ten years ago, and now has 28 cisterns.

During the drought the cisterns often sat empty, but after the recent rainstorms, all of the cisterns are full.

That adds up to just over 21,000 gallons.

Hands-on science

Education Outside Corps Member Sophie Case teaches science in Fairmount’s garden and says the kids love the garden.

“They love interacting with the plants here, and watering them is a big part of that.

“With our cistern, they can see the water cycle happening, they make those connections in their head, and it’s tangible for them.”

The cisterns are part of SFUSD’s sustainability programs and are used by green schoolyard educators across the district. They are installed in coordination with Tap the Sky and funded by the Urban Watershed Stewardship grants, a partnership between SFPUC and the City of San Francisco, as well as SFUSD’s Prop A bond green schoolyard funds.