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Nick Fish

Commissioner, City of Portland

phone: 503-823-3589

fax: 503-823-3596

1221 S.W. 4th, Room 240, Portland, OR 97204

Clean water history


We could argue that Portland’s drinking water is the best in the world, thanks to innovative Oregonians long since passed.

In 1895, drinking water began flowing from the Bull Run Watershed through underground pipes, down to homes and businesses in Portland. The underground system substantially reduced the number of waterborne disease outbreaks. In 1929, the Portland Water Bureau began adding chlorine, nearly eliminating all waterborne disease outbreaks.    

Over a hundred years later, we still get our water from the Bull Run! And, because Bull Run water is so high-quality at the source, we are one of just six large water systems in the United States that doesn’t need to treat our water further.   

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), is launching a new show, “How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson,” which explores the history of great innovations. The first episode, titled Clean, takes viewers on a journey of our country’s history of underground water and sewer systems in the mid-1800s. Nicknamed the “clean revolution,” it was a time in our history when we were desperate to make cities healthier and cleaner.   

Clean airs on OPB on Wednesday, October 15 at 9 pm.

OPB’s Oregon Experience series has a great episode on the history of the Bull Run.   Watch it anytime for free on OPB’s website.