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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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Coming Cold Snap Prompts Shutdown of Benson Bubblers; Time to Prepare for Frozen Pipes

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January 6
With the weather warming up, the Portland Water Bureau has begun turning the Bubblers back on. Portlanders can once again get a refreshing drink when they want.


The Portland Water Bureau has begun to turn off the city's Benson Bubbler drinking fountains due to forecasts for freezing temperatures and windy conditions, which could potentially cause safety hazards on sidewalks for pedestrians. Once temperatures warm up, the iconic Bubblers will be turned back on.

The Portland Water Bureau reminds the public that cold temperatures have the potential to cause freezing pipes that can damage private property. Here are several precautions to help avoid and minimize potential impacts: 

  • Inside your house make sure that hot and cold pipes are insulated in unheated areas, such as the garage, crawl space, and attic.
  • Open a few cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms to allow pipes behind walls and under floors to get additional heat from inside your house.
  • Let a slight drip of water run from faucets when temperatures dip below freezing. This keeps water moving, making it less likely to freeze.
  • Outside the house, disconnect hoses from faucets.
  • Wrap faucets and backflow assemblies with insulating covers or material.
  • Cover foundation vents with foam blocks, thickly folded newspaper or cardboard.

While completing these preparations, it's also important to know the location of the house or building's main water shut‐off valve in case a pipe breaks inside. Most shut‐off valves are located in the following locations: 

  1. The crawl space or basement, where the water line from the meter enters the home.
  2. In the garage where the water line enters the wall or ceiling, near the water heater or laundry hookup.
  3. Outside the house near the foundation, often protected by a concrete ring or clay pipe.

Main breaks, service leaks, and frozen water meters can also occur as a result of cold weather. If you observe running water in the street, believe you are not receiving water from your meter, or experience an urgent water problem, please contact the Portland Water Bureau's 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 503‐823‐4874.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

1964 Flood Remembered

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This day marks the 50-year anniversary of what is known as the1964 Christmas flood, which caused significant damage throughout Oregon.

In Portland, the lower deck of the Steel Bridge was underwater and had also been hit by a log raft consisting of around 1,000 logs.  The impact of the raft severely damaged the Hawthorne Bridge, closing it for a year. At 12 feet above flood stage, the flooding of the Willamette River at Portland in 1964 was second only to the 1948 flood that wiped out Vanport. At its peak, the water was at the top of downtown Portland's seawall.  Landslide in Bull Run

The 1964 Christmas event caused significant damage to the water system infrastructure in the Bull Run Watershed. Conduit 2 was broken and conduit 4 was pulled apart at the joints. Only conduit 3 remained in service while repairs were made, but it provided enough water to avoid shortages.  The United States Geological Service and the Water Bureau operate a stream gauge on the Bull Run River 2 miles downstream from Bull Run Reservoir 2 and the water system intake. The maximum flow at this station was 24,800 cubic feet per second on December 22, 1964. By comparison, the same gauge this past week averaged 715 cubic feet per second.

While the Christmas event impacted water operations, it was actually the heavy rains later in January 1965 that caused the worst damage to the water system. A significant landslide occurred at a site along the route of the conduits at the Portland General Electric power plant along the Bull Run River. The slide damaged the county road, and conduit 2 had to be taken out of service while emergency repairs were made. There was so much water spilling over Dam 2 that the plunge pool below was torn apart by the velocity and quantity of the water.Conduit 4 broken

The US Army Corps of Engineers has established a multi-agency, flood campaign website. Watch for links to videos, debunked flood myths, economic impact information and more.

Clackamas County has produced an oral history video on the impacts to the residents in the Sandy River basin, in which the Bull Run Watershed is located.

Be Water Wise: Water Pipe Insurance Policies not Affiliated with Portland Water Bureau

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Private home insurance companies are again conducting sales mailings offering water service line insurance in Portland. The Portland Water Bureau wants to remind our customers that such offers are not associated with the City of Portland, nor does the Portland Water Bureau have any connection with such companies, or any other such insurance carrier. 

These private companies send letters to Portland residents offering a repair plan for the water service line extending from the resident’s house to the water distribution pipeline, which usually runs from the water meter in front of the house.

These letters state that the line extending from the house to the water meter is the homeowner’s responsibility. This means that if the pipeline experiences a crack or break, the resident is responsible for all associated costs.

While this is in fact true, some sales literature from such insurance companies has confused some residents, making them feel that they are required to have an insurance policy that is separate from their homeowner’s policy to cover any water utility line damage. This is not true.

Here are the facts that you need to know:

  • There are no laws that require you to insure the water line.
  • It is completely up to you to decide whether you want or need this type of coverage, and through which company you want to buy such a policy.
  • If you receive a phone call from a sales person employed by a private company and they introduce themselves as having a relationship with the “water department,” this is false information. The Portland Water Bureau is a public utility, and does not contract/affiliate with any insurance providers.

Before signing an annual insurance plan that protects your water service line, the Water Bureau urges caution. Some plans may be legitimate offers, but make sure to examine the fine print. For example, letters received by customers in 2012 noted, in small print, that the private companies’ insurance plan will not pay for residential plumbing services if the water line fails due to “acts of God,” frozen pipes, faulty construction or maintenance, or “normal wear and tear.”

If you are interested in water service line insurance, the Portland Water Bureau encourages you to consider the following information:

  • Review your homeowner's policy and determine if water line coverage is already provided. If you do have water line coverage, make sure to contact your insurance company and ask how this coverage would work in conjunction with an annual insurance plan.
  • Determine if you have prior issues with your water line pipes or if there have been any issues in your neighborhood. This will help you in deciding the necessity of purchasing an annual insurance plan.
  • Compare several private insurance policies to make sure you find the policy the best suits your needs.
  • Read the fine print in the annual insurance plan carefully.
  • Check the company standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Business Review and see their rating and any past government actions or advertising concerns BBB has found.

If you are ever suspicious of anything related to your water service, please call the Water Bureau Customer Service hotline at 503-823-7770.

Customer Service Walk-In Center Closed December 25 and January 1

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The Portland Water Bureau's Customer Service Walk-In Center will be closed on Thursday, December 25 and on Thursday, January 1, 2015 in observance of the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.   

The Walk-In Center, located on the first floor of the Portland Building at 1120 SW 5th Avenue, will reopen on Friday, December 26 and Friday, January 2 at 8 a.m., respectively.

For your convenience you may pay your bill online, or pay by Visa or MasterCard by calling our automated payment system at 503-823-7770 and pressing 1. You may also leave a payment in the night box located outside the front door at 1120 SW 5th Avenue Portland, OR 97204.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Customer Service

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Improve your Water Footprint

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With the temperature on the chilly side, thinking about water (the non-frozen variety) isn't high on the agenda for most people. But we always need drinking water — and clean drinking water at that.

In Portland we are blessed with an abundance of water that most of us take for granted. This is the season of thinking about what we will do in the new year to be and do better. How about reducing your water footprint? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Install high efficiency showerheads to reduce waste — save five to eight gallons per shower.
  • Limit showers to five minutes
  • Consider upgrading to a water and energy efficiency washing machine
  • Run your dishwasher only when it's full
  • Replace your older toilet with a WaterSense-labeled High-Efficiency toilet that uses 1.28 gallons per flush or less
  • Give up bottled water — it takes 1.85 gallons of water just to manufacture the plastic for one 12-ounce bottle.

The list goes on.

So think about what could work for you and make a commitment to do at least one thing this coming year.

Good luck and happy new year!