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Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.


1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204

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Washington Park Reservoir Groundbreaking – A Landmark Seismic Resilience Project

By Jaymee Cuti

Today, distinguished guests joined the Portland Water Bureau, City of Portland, and Hoffman Construction Company to break ground on the Washington Park Reservoir Project. Once complete and online, the 12.4-million-gallon underground reservoir will supply water to Portland’s west side, including all downtown businesses and residents, 20 Portland public schools, five hospitals, the Oregon Zoo, and more than 60 parks.

“The time to invest in the next generation of Portland’s water infrastructure is now – and we are seizing the moment,” said Water Bureau Director Michael Stuhr. “This project is an example of the many infrastructure improvements we are undertaking throughout the city to continue providing our customers with safe, reliable, high-quality water into the future.”

The new reservoir will be built to withstand a major earthquake and landslide while still maintaining the historic drinking water function provided by the original reservoirs. A reflecting pool will be featured on top in the same general footprint as the historical Reservoir 3. Reservoir 4 will be disconnected from the public drinking water system, and a lowland habitat area/bioswale and a reflecting pool constructed in the basin. The project complies with federal and state mandates, seismically strengthens key water infrastructure on Portland’s west side, and helps ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system.

Speakers at the groundbreaking event included:

  • Portland Water Bureau Director Michael Stuhr
  • Commissioner Nick Fish, Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Water Bureau
  • Commissioner Steve Novick, Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management
  • Maurice Henderson, Incoming Chief of Staff to Mayor-Elect Ted Wheeler
  • Wayne Drinkward, Hoffman Construction Company President and CEO

The ceremony was held at the Washington Park Chiming Fountain.

Washington Park is open during project construction. For information about the project, including park impacts, travel options, and to sign up to receive monthly updates, please visit

Join Our Team: Training and Development Officer

By Jaymee Cuti Add a Comment

edit conteIf you're interested in joining an award-winning public utility where employees thrive on the pride of delivering a life-essential product with world class customer service, the Portland Water Bureau might be just the place for you.

The Water Bureau is a recognized leader in the utility industry. We've achieved this success by investing in the very best people and empowering them to find new and better ways to meet our customer's needs.

The Water Bureau currently employs approximately 560 people. All current job postings with the City of Portland are posted online, and updated weekly. We are an equal opportunity employer that values diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Current Opportunity at the Water Bureau

Position Emp. Type Salary Closing Date/Time Join Our Team 
**Training and Development Officer Full Time $5,830.00 - $7,784.00 Monthly Fri. 09/30/16 4:30 PM Pacific Time Apply

**This recruitment will remain open until 150 applications have been received or until the posted closing date, February 5, 2016, whichever comes first. Applications received after the 150 application limit has been reached will not be included in this recruitment process.

Learn More about the Water Bureau

For more information regarding career opportunities at the Water Bureau, contact the Water Administrative Manager at 503-823-1956 or by e-mail

TRAFFIC ADVISORY 9/21/16: Crane Delivery at Washington Park Reservoir Project Site Scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 22; Traffic Delays Expected

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

On Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 between 10:30 a.m. and noon, a large long-reach mobile crane will be delivered to the reservoir project site at Washington Park.

The crane, pre-loaded on a 130-feet oversized truck trailer, will enter the site by traveling West Burnside Road, to Southwest Tichner Drive, to Southwest Kingston Avenue, to Southwest Sherwood Boulevard. 

After being unloaded, the truck trailer will exit the park using Southwest Park Place.

What Travelers Can Expect         

  • 20- to 25-minute temporary delays from 10:30 a.m. to noon as the truck trailer maneuvers through the park.
  • Heavy congestion, delays, and slow moving traffic on West Burnside Street, Southwest Tichner Drive, and Southwest Kingston Avenue.
  • Staged flaggers to direct traffic at the following intersections: Southwest Kingston Drive and Southwest Sherwood Boulevard; Southwest Kingston Avenue and Southwest Fairview Boulevard.

Avoid Delays
To avoid delays, plan ahead and detour around the crane’s route.

Enter the park using:

  • West Burnside Road to Southwest Skyline Boulevard to Southwest Fairview Boulevard
  • Southwest Canyon Road to Southwest Knights Boulevard
  • Southwest Fairview Boulevard to Southwest Knights Boulevard
  • Southwest Canyon Road to Southwest Knights Boulevard

Exit the park using:

  • Southwest Fairview Boulevard to Southwest Skyline Boulevard to West Burnside Road
  • Southwest Knights Boulevard to Southwest Fairview Boulevard
  • Southwest Knights Boulevard to Southwest Canyon Road

Safety is Priority
Safety is our number one priority when moving any type of heavy equipment into or out of the project worksite.

A pilot car will help navigate the oversize load through the neighborhood. Onsite staff will be using radio communications, orange flags, and two-way radios.

Park users and travelers are encouraged to move safely around the park. Please watch for detours and signage and follow direction from flaggers. The public is encouraged not follow construction vehicles or buses as they may enter restricted zones. All construction-related traffic impacts are subject to change.

Project Details
The Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project entails constructing a new 12.4-million gallon, seismically reinforced below ground reservoir in the same footprint of existing Reservoir 3 (upper) with a reflecting pool/water feature on top. Existing Reservoir 4 (lower) will be disconnected from the public drinking water system and a lowland wildlife habitat area, bioswale, and reflecting pool will be constructed in the basin.

The large crane will be used for the construction of the shoring wall and other activities in the project site. The crane will move back and forth, once assembled, on tracks that stand more than eight feet tall. It is anticipated the crane will remain onsite until 2018.

For additional project information and updates, contact the project hotline at 503-823-7030, e-mail Lindsay.Wochnick@portlandoregon,gov, or visit

Century-Old Leaking Pipe Marks Beginning of Main Break Season

By Jaymee Cuti Add a Comment

The Portland Water Bureau’s Maintenance & Construction crews are ready to respond to emergencies, including water main leaks and breaks, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. On average, crews respond to 200 main breaks a year, which is relatively low when compared to cities of similar size. We attribute this to our low-corrosive soil and proactive efforts to replace mains with the highest failure rates.

A leak on Monday, Sept. 19 shut down part of Northeast 33rd Avenue for approximately 24 hours and left more than 70 households without water during the repair. When crews excavated, they found a leaking connection on a 24-inch cast iron pipe installed in 1906. That’s more than a century old! Crews worked non-stop for more than 24 hours, restoring water service and re-opening Northeast 33rd Avenue well before the Wednesday morning commute.

What Does Our System Look Like?

This centenarian is unusual but not unheard of in our aging system. Approximately 20 percent of pipes with known ages in our system are 100-plus years old. However, the average age of our pipes is 64.

This repair on Northeast 33rd Avenue is an example of our proactive work. While replacing a leaking main, we took advantage of the excavation work and also replaced a nearby 24” valve that was installed in 1906.

In the last three years, the Water Bureau has completed an average of 300 hydrant replacements per year. In the last year, we installed almost five miles of new main, with contractors installing additional new main.  In the last year, we also installed or replaced 1,466 service and more than 400 valves. These are maintenance achievements that continue annually as part of our nationally recognized asset management program.

Some of the ways that we review our aging infrastructure are to:

  • Prioritize asset replacement if they are evaluated as high risk; 
  • Rank the replacement of old pipes based on the history of pipe breaks and other factors such as material and condition; 
  • Create a list of valves that are most in need of replacement based on the condition of the valve and the vital nature of the pipe;
  • Prioritize replacing hydrants that lack breakaway flanges or have galvanized or plastic service lines;
  • Prioritize many replacements based on what we learn from our condition assessments.    

Why Does a Main Break Occur?

A main break occurs when the water main develops a crack or a hole that lets water out into the surrounding soil. On the surface, main breaks can look like leaks bubbling up out of the street, and, in extreme cases, the water can cause flooding and property damage.

In Portland, cast iron water mains tend to break during the colder times of the year. Of the 2,100 miles of water pipe in the city’s network, approximately 1,350 miles are cast iron pipe. The majority of these cast iron pipes were installed before 1960 and remain in the water system.

Cooler temperatures can cause pipes to become more brittle. Adding cold air temperatures at or below freezing can cause the ground above a pipe to freeze and thaw, thereby increasing external stress on a pipe. Temperatures can be just one factor in causing a main break. The age of a pipe, soil conditions, pipe corrosion, and ground movement can also cause a main to weaken over time..

Fixing Water Main Breaks
Every main break situation is different. The Water Bureau’s response will vary based on the specific situation. However, this is a general sequence of events that happen to fix a main break. 

  • The Water Bureau is notified of a possible water main break.
  • Urgent response personnel respond to the site to determine whether the leak is indeed a water main break.
  • If determined to be a water main break, valves are partially closed to reduce the flow of the water through the main, limiting any potential damage the water could cause.
  • The area is blocked off for safety and traffic is rerouted.
  • Other utilities, such as PGE and NW Natural Gas, are contacted to mark utilities lines that will help to ensure that excavating the break area in the street will not damage other services or endanger bureau staff or the public.
  • The Water Bureau repair crew brings in heavy equipment, including a backhoe, to excavate the site and expose the break.
  • The main break is assessed and crews determine how extensive the repairs will be.
  • Repair may require the crew to temporarily shut off water service to customers who are notified before their water service is turned off at the water meter.
  • The repair crew then cuts out and replaces the section of the damaged pipe.
  • The excavation is backfilled with rock.
  • The new main is flushed.
  • Water service is restored to the affected customers.
  • The repair crew ensures the backfilled excavation site is safe for traffic before removing the detour.
  • The Portland Bureau of Transportation completes the restoration of the street at a later date.

A simple water main repair can be completed in six to eight hours, but large or complicated repairs may take several days to a week.

Affected Customers – During & After Main Break
During a main break, customers in the immediate vicinity may notice a reduction in water pressure or have their water temporarily shut off while repairs are being made. Customers may also experience discolored water. This color is from sediment that is always in our pipes and can get stirred up during a main break. The discoloration does not pose a health risk. However, customers should avoid using hot water or running the washing machine or dishwasher until flushing is complete.

If you have experienced discoloration in your water, run the water at one tap for five minutes to see if it clears. If it does not clear, wait an hour and try again. When the water runs clear, flush any taps where discolored water was present. Take a look at our online Discolored Water fact sheet for additional information.

Reporting Water Main Breaks, Discolored Water
Anyone observing water running from streets or sidewalks is encouraged to report the leak to the Water Bureau. Please call the Water Bureau’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874 for water system emergencies, including suspected main breaks.

If customers experience ongoing water quality problems or lost water service with no notification, call the Water Line at 503-823-7525, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. After hours, contact the 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874.

Red Cross Holds Free Earthquake Preparedness Presentations Across Oregon

By Jaymee Cuti Add a Comment

The Red Cross and community partners help the region get ready for a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake by holding Prepare Out Loud presentations in Salem, Tillamook, Manzanita, Corvallis, Medford, Eugene, Portland and Bend.

Portland on Sept. 20: The American Red Cross promoted community preparedness with a series of Prepare Out Loud presentations to help our region be prepared for disasters like a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake.

The presentation was given to employees of the Portland Water Bureau, Bureau of Environmental Services and other City of Portland offices to initiate preparedness in employees who are needed back at work following a disaster to help rebuild a damaged water system and other infrastructure.

The Portland Water Bureau demonstrated its “I ♥ Preparedness” supplies including various types of water storage containers and information about safely storing water for an emergency.

The Red Cross Prepare Out Loud presentation directly addresses the seismic significance of the Cascadia Subduction Zone and what to expect following an earthquake of this magnitude. Prepare Out Loud presenter, Steve Eberlein, was witness to the destruction of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka. The tsunami was caused by an underwater subduction zone earthquake and resulted in the deaths of nearly 300,000 people in 14 countries. His first-hand account of the incident lends perspective to the importance of preparedness. Following the Prepare Out Loud presentation, attendees will understand the steps they can take now to prepare for an earthquake and the central role their actions and voices play in building our community’s resilience. 

The Prepare Out Loud presentation covers:

  • The science and history of the Cascadia Subduction Zone
  • Human behavior during disasters
  • What to expect during and after a Cascadia earthquake
  • How to prepare to quickly locate your loved ones following a disaster
  • How much food, water, and supplies you will need to take care of yourself and others

“Oregonians can be ready for disasters by taking simple steps to prepare now and sharing their preparedness actions,” said Steve Eberlein, preparedness presenter with the Red Cross Cascades Region.  “It's time for us to unlock the power of peer influence and bring sustainable cultural change to Oregon.”

Upcoming Prepare Out Loud Events

Visit for more earthquake preparedness resources, including a: