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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Avenue, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

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Rain barrel information


With a little planning, rain barrels can be part of your strategy to manage the rain and save water

single wooden rain barrelThis is a time of year when many Portlanders are thinking about the rain, looking at their yards, and dreaming of this year’s new garden (hark, the arrival of the seed catalogs!).

Rain barrels take a little extra planning in Portland, since we have a lot of rain in some seasons, and very little over the summer when landscaping needs irrigation. Most of the winter and spring, the barrels are just overflowing and need a safe place for the water to go.  But, they can still be great tools to manage the rain on your property and save a little bit on your stormwater and water bill.

Check out this Rain Barrels Guide from Environmental Services.

And, a new article from the Sightline Institute, A Green Light for Using Rain Barrel Water on Garden Edibles, provides some great information about recent research about rain barrels and roof runoff, answering the question Is it safe to use rain-barrel water collected from your roof to irrigate homegrown lettuces, strawberries, and tomatoes? 

We urge careful consideration of your roofing material and any chemical use before deciding to use rain barrel water on your edible plants.  The article provides some good tips and information about keeping your barrels clean.

series of blue rain barrelsRain barrel systems can range from a single wooden barrel (top) to a more complex series of connected barrels that save more water.  Either way, make sure the overflow has somewhere safe to go away from your foundation and others' property.  

Get involved at Crystal Springs


Dig in the dirt and help the native plants take off this winter and spring

young volunteer working at park

Excited about the salmon returning to Crystal Springs, and wondering how you can get more involved?

Every month a fun group of volunteers is gathering to care for the newly restored natural areas in Westmoreland Park and other sites along Crystal Springs in SE Portland. 

The events are typically the 4th Sunday of each month, organized by the Crystal Springs Partnership.  Anyone is welcome to join.  It’s a great way to get outside in this mild weather and help our parks look good.


In December, the group spruced up the “Brannen property," near SE 21st and Umatilla, where a new pocket natural area park was due for a weeding and some re-planting. 

volunteer digging weeds  new mulch and happy plants

In January, the group turned its attention to Westmoreland Park. The natural area was just completed last fall.  Volunteer help to head off weeds and nurture the new plants this spring will help Westmoreland Park look great this summer.

group of volunteers at Westmoreland Park  Taking care of Westmoreland Park

Get involved!  The next events are Sunday, February 22 (9 a.m. - noon) and Saturday, March 7.

Find out more on the Crystal Springs Partnership website:

Or follow the news and events on Facebook at CrystalSpringsPartnership


Dozens attend first Tryon-Stephens Headwaters Street Plan Open House

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If you didn't attend, there's still a chance to review project materials and provide input - find the information here.

On January 26th, over 70 community members attended the first Tryon-Stephens Street Plan project open house. They shared ideas about what street and stormwater improvements they’d like to see in and around the project area, watched a short presentation on the project (access the slides here), and learned about the project through several display boards set up around the room (see the display boards here).

If you missed the open house but would like to get more information, provide input and respond to the project survey, you can check out the Tryon-Stephens Headwaters Neighborhood Street Plan website. There will be another open house in the Spring 2015. We welcome your input.

Background: The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) are working together on the Tryon-Stephens Headwaters Neighborhood Street Plan. The objective of the street plan is to establish a more connected local street and pathway network and to improve stormwater management systems within the area. Recommendations made in this plan will reflect community priorities and suggestions to achieve our transportation and stormwater goals. Recommendations may include:

•             Refine the primary walking and bicycling routes

•             Identify new connections (right of way)

•             Categorize streets by their character/context

•             Integrate PBOT and BES tools and coordinating investments

Find out more: Tryon-Stephens Headwaters Neighborhood Street Plan

Early hints of spring: the weeds are back


It's time to watch out for invasive plants like spurge laurel

Even though the groundhog's prediction is for six more weeks of winter, now is a good time to keep a lookout for invasive plants here in Portland.

In keeping with the Groundhog Day movie theme of repeating reality, the cycles of invasive plants repeat each year.  They just keep popping up...  Here's one you may see blooming right now:

close up of spurge laurel flowers

Does it look familiar? If so, check out our previous post to learn more about how to identify and control this invader: Spurge laurel.  

Stormwater for Challenging Sites Workshop Series

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The workshop will educate homeowners on how to reduce runoff, improve stream health, and reduce flooding in challenging slope and soil conditions.

Many people find themselves stuck in the mud when trying to figure out how to manage stormwater on their property.  Internet searches and literature can generate ideas, but don’t always leave residents with the hands-on skills and confidence to successfully implement a project on their own property.

Enter the “Stormwater for Challenging Sites” workshop series, which began in SW Portland in 2014.  The series is a partnership of Southwest Watershed Resource Center, Green Girl LLC, and Stamberger Outreach, with funding from West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District and the City of Lake Oswego.


This year’s courses begin in March with an overview workshop covering site assessment and identification of opportunities and constraints.  In April and May, participants meet at properties with site challenges such as poorly infiltrating soils or steep slopes.  The design process is explained, attendees participate in the construction of a project and discuss long-term maintenance.

The workshops are free, and participants can attend one, or all four.  Space is limited.  To find out more and register, visit

The Southwest Watershed Resource Center inspires awareness and action on behalf of watershed health in SW Portland neighborhoods, through a partnership between Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. and the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.