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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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The Water Bureau is a Best-Practice Leader in Using Business Cases

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

The Portland Water Bureau is a noted leader among water utilities for analyzing its costs and benefits through business cases (a rationale for why we do a particular task or project).

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) published a report in July 2016 highlighting how we use business cases to evaluate the benefits and costs of projects, operations, and maintenance activities.

The Water Bureau is one of the first utilities to use a triple-bottom-line method in these business cases that looks at benefits and costs in financial, social, and environmental terms. For example, a broken water pipe that damages a major highway may cost a few hundred thousand dollars to fix in purely economic terms. If the pipe shuts the highway down; however, the social costs from delayed traffic, blocked emergency routes, and interrupted trade may add up to millions.

WRF ReportThe bureau is also a leader in quantifying social and environmental factors with monetary values. Translating social and environmental factors into dollars in the business case helps decision-makers make more informed choices.

The WRF report, titled Capital Funding Imperatives: Best Practices for Capital Improvement Programs, describes best practices in balancing needs, implementing systems, using business cases, involving stakeholders, and obtaining approval for utility capital programs.

The executive summary of the report is available on the WRF site.

Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project: July 2016 Update

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

The Portland Water Bureau and contractor Hoffman Construction Company have officially begun a long-term capital improvement project to update the Washington Park reservoir site at 2403 SW Jefferson Street. 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.

A new 12.4 million gallon, seismically reinforced below ground reservoir will be constructed with a reflecting pool/water feature on top. The new reservoir will preserve the historic drinking water function provided by the original reservoirs and be engineered to withstand ongoing landslide encroachment and potentially catastrophic effects of a major earthquake. Existing Reservoir 4 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.

When complete and online, the new reservoir will supply water to Portland’s west side and serve more than 360,000 people. This will include all downtown businesses and residents, 20 schools, three hospital complexes, more than 60 parks, and the Oregon Zoo.

Construction will proceed through 2019. A pause will occur from 2020 to 2022 to allow soils to consolidate to reduce any vertical movement. From 2022 to 2024, construction of interpretive features, including the two reflecting pools and surface features, will conclude the project.

July - Mid-September 2016 
From now until mid-September 2016, the following construction activity is scheduled to occur.

This activity will cause impacts to traffic, parking, and TriMet bus service.

See chart below and access an online map detailing traffic impacts and entrances into and exits out of Washington Park during this period.

  • Tree and vegetation inspection, pruning, and clearing on SW Sacajawea and Sherwood boulevards
  • Construction fence installation
  • Placement of mobile field offices
  • Erosion control
  • Disconnection of existing Reservoir 3 and 4 inlet and outlet piping
  • Removal of Weir Building
  • Cut and cap of old piping
  • Removal of stilling tank inside Gatehouse 4
  • **Traffic Delays: Travelers may experience intermittent traffic flow delays up to 20 minutes on SW Sacajawea and Sherwood boulevards. Short-term closures may also occur with detours put in place.
  • **Parking: All parking will remain open on SW Lewis Clark Way and SW Sacajawea and Sherwood boulevards except during short-term closures.
  • TriMet Bus Service: TriMet Bus Line 63 – Washington Park to Oregon Zoo may have minor delays. Stop ID 6177 - SW Sacajawea and Sherwood may be intermittently affected depending on construction activity. Check for real time updates.
**Construction-related traffic impacts are subject to change. To avoid traffic delays through the area, plan ahead and consider alternate routes to get to your destination.
  • W Burnside Road to SW Tichner Drive
  • W Burnside Road to SW Fischer Lane
  • SW Fairview Boulevard to SW Knights Boulevard
  • SW Park Place to SW Lewis Clark Way
  • SW Knights Boulevard to SW Canyon Road
  •   SW Tichner Drive to W Burnside Road
  •   SW Knights Boulevard to SW Fairview Boulevard
  •   SW Fischer Lane to W Burnside Road
  •   SW Sacajawea Boulevard to SW Park Place
  •   SW Canyon Road to SW Knights Boulevard
From now until mid-September 2016, all park entrances and exits will remain open.


Cut and Cap Piping  Within project site X        
Tree Pruning / Inspection  Within project site X X       
Fence Installation
 Within project site   X       
Vegetation/ Tree Removal  Around
the reservoirs, by SW Sacajawea and Sherwood boulevards
Erosion Control  Within project site   X       
Disconnect Reservoir 3 Inlet and Outlet Piping  Within project site   X       
Remove Weir Building  Within project site    X X    
Reservoir 4 Inlet and Outlet Piping
 Within project site    X X     
Removal of Stilling Tank inside Gatehouse 4  Within project site    X  X    
Selective Site Demolition  Within project site    X  X    
Construct Upper and Lower Shoring Walls  Within project site     X   X  X

The Water Bureau will be presenting project updates at upcoming local neighborhood association meetings. Join us to learn more about the project. 

To contact us with questions or concerns or to sign up to receive project updates by e-mail:

Conduit 3 Hydroelectric Project Receives Excellence Award

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

The Portland Water Bureau Conduit 3 Hydroelectric Project has received an Excellence in Engineering Award from the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Water Works Association (PNWS-AWWA).

The award celebrates outstanding drinking water related engineering projects which have led to overall cost savings to the water using community, provided enhanced safety to the public and/or water resources, resulted in extended asset service life, or integrated a cutting edge technology in the design.

The project, involving the Portland Water Bureau, Lucid Energy, Murray, Smith & Associates, Inc. (MSA), and SSC Construction, included installing a LucidPipe™ Power System in the Portland Water Bureau’s pipeline beneath the street at SE 147th Avenue and SE Powell Boulevard. The LucidPipe™ Power System uses the flow of water inside the Water Bureau’s pipeline to spin four 42” turbines that produce electricity.

The system is installed in 50-feet of Portland water pipes, in sections where the water flows downward due to gravity. There are four sections of pipe, and each has a generator on top and a 42-inch turbine that spins as the water flows inside. (Photo credit: Sherri Kaven)

The Portland installation is the first project in the United States to secure a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for renewable energy produced by in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline.

The turbines were installed by replacing a section of existing pipe with Lucid’s pipe, and bolting that new pipe to the existing water system. (Photo credit: Sherri Kaven)

The project not only supports the Water Bureau’s objective of reducing the cost of delivering safe, clean drinking water to Portlanders, but also supports the City of Portland’s Climate Action Plan goals and its plan to identify and collect new sources of revenue.

Portland Water Bureau to Begin Annual Groundwater Maintenance Run

By Jaymee Cuti Add a Comment

Starting today, July 25, the Portland Water Bureau will begin blending a small portion of water from its Columbia South Shore Well Field with water from the Bull Run Watershed as an annual maintenance operation.

Public notification is not required but the Portland Water Bureau informs the media and sensitive water users, as a practice, when it activates groundwater and when it has significant operational changes. The media and sensitive water users will again be notified when the Portland Water Bureau returns to 100 percent Bull Run water.

As a result of careful planning, Portland is fortunate to have access to two excellent water sources that allow us to be prepared to meet the range of supply and demand conditions that occur in the Portland water system.

The Columbia South Shore Well Field is a high-quality water supply that meets or surpasses all federal and state drinking water regulations.

The city’s groundwater supply is a complex system composed of electric pumps, chemical feed systems, electronic controls and other equipment that must be operated regularly to identify maintenance needs. By doing this operation routinely, the bureau will ensure the reliability of the system when needed, either in an emergency or to meet seasonal supply demands.

The average contribution of groundwater to the system will be approximately 15 percent of the total daily water demand. The groundwater maintenance run is scheduled to end in mid-August but may be extended as necessary. Due to the low percentage of groundwater being blended with the Bull Run Source, the bureau does not expect there to be a large change in water chemistry. It takes up to 10 days depending on location and overall water demand for the blended water to make its way through the distribution system to homes and businesses.

Customers with questions are encouraged to call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

Our Water Supply

By Jaymee Cuti Add a Comment

Each year, the Portland Water Bureau develops a Seasonal Water Supply Augmentation and Contingency Plan also known as the Summer Supply Plan. This plan evaluates the availability of water from the Bull Run and groundwater sources, projected weather forecasts, and water demands to guide management of the drinking water system. Between careful management and the region’s strong conservation efforts, the Portland Water Bureau is prepared to meet the range of potential supply and demand conditions that could occur in the Portland water system this season.

The Bull Run water system is designed to capture and store rainfall from the rainy season to provide adequate water supply during the dry summer months. The approximately 9.9 billion gallons stored in the two Bull Run reservoirs along with summer stream flows is sufficient to meet water demand during most years. During drier years, the Columbia South Shore Well Field groundwater source can be used to augment the Bull Run supply. This secondary source of reliable, high quality water can be used to make up any supply deficits. Because you can never be too safe, the City has also identified additional contingency sources and strategies to address even the most severe conditions.

Drawdown occurs each year when Portland Water Bureau customers use more water from our reservoirs than streams carry into them. This happens every year until the fall rains return and refill the reservoirs. Drawdown typically occurs around July 4. This year, drawdown began on June 30.

The Portland Water Bureau is prepared to meet drinking water needs of our customers. The Bull Run is a low-elevation watershed that gets its water primarily from rain, not snow. The watershed gets approximately 135 inches of rain each year, about 3-4 times more rain than we get here in town.

The Columbia South Shore Well Field is Portland’s secondary water supply. The well field has 26 wells in three aquifers that are capable of producing nearly 100 million gallons per day. Each year the Portland Water Bureau performs a groundwater maintenance operation during drawdown to ensure the wellfield is operational in the event it is needed for emergency supply. This operation is planned to begin on July 25 and may last until mid-August.

With an average daily summer water demand of 126 million gallons, it can take careful planning to meet the needs of our customers.

The Water Bureau’s best partner in ensuring that we have more than enough water for years to come is you! From 2004 to 2014, Portland’s population grew by 18 percent—but the city’s total water use decreased by 13 percent. This water savings is partly a result of how Portlanders have embraced water-saving technology and changed behaviors to make the most of each drop.

The Water Bureau has an efficiency program, where you can learn more about using water wisely all year round with information about native plants in your garden and low-flow devices for your showers, faucet and toilets. You can learn more at

The Portland Water Bureau carefully monitors water levels, weather forecasts, and water use patterns to ensure adequate, clean water for all of our customers.  As it does every year, the Portland Water Bureau is carefully watching our water supply through the summer. For updates and more information, visit

Photo by Roman Johnston