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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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Cleaning Portland’s Water Mains

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Crews open specifically‐selected fire hydrants and close specifically selected valves under controlled conditions to scour the inner surface of water distribution pipes.Every spring and summer, the Portland Water Bureau works to clean out a portion of the nearly 2,000 miles of the water pipes that lie underneath our streets. Drinking water systems, especially unfiltered systems like Portland, need to routinely clean pipes to improve water quality. Over time, very fine sediment and organic matter from the Bull Run settle out of the water and accumulate in the bottom of the pipes. While the sediments are generally harmless, they can make the disinfectant in the water less effective. Additionally, sudden changes in the flow of water can disturb these sediments resulting in discolored water.

To prevent these and other water quality issues, the Water Bureau uses a technique called unidirectional flushing to clean the insides of the pipes. Unidirectional flushing forces water to move at a much faster speed than normal to scour the insides of the pipes and clean out sediments. Find more information, including maps of areas currently being flushed, on the Water Bureau’s Unidirectional Flushing webpage at

This year, crews are working in Southwest and Northwest Portland neighborhoods. The flushing in Southwest neighborhoods finished up in July and the flushing crew is now working in Northwest neighborhoods.

What to Expect When Flushing is Happening in Your Neighborhood 
Unidirectional flushing will have minimal impacts to customers. If you see hydrant flushing crews working in the area, please drive carefully and treat them like any other road construction crew.

Flushing usually occurs Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

During Flushing
Residents in the immediate vicinity of flushing may notice temporarily discolored water and lower than normal water pressure. The discoloration does not pose a health risk. However, avoid using tap water or running the washing machine or dishwasher until flushing is complete.

After Flushing
If you experience some discoloration in your water, turn on each cold water faucet in your home and allow it to run for several minutes or until the water is clear.

Questions or Concerns
If you experience on-going water quality problems, call the Water Bureau's Water Line Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 503-823-7525.

Water Quality

Behind the Bubblers

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Benson Bubbler located at SW 5th Avenue & SW Madison StreetBenson Bubbler located at SW 5th Avenue & SW Madison Street

Perhaps the best known drinking fountains in the City of Roses are the legendary "Benson Bubblers," the iconic four bronze bowls that provide fresh, Bull Run drinking water throughout downtown. The Benson Bubblers were named after businessman and philanthropist Simon Benson who donated $10,000 for the purchase and installation of 20 fountains in 1912. 

Today, there are 51 “true” four-bowl Benson Bubblers. Forty-eight are installed in downtown Portland while three reside on the Eastside. Two bubblers do exist outside of Portland; one in Portland’s sister city Sapporo, Japan and the other bubbles at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington State.

An additional 79 bubblers replicating the original style have been cast and installed over the years, not to be confused with the “true” 51 Benson Bubblers.

Nellie Bubblers

Three-Bowl "Nellie Bubbler

The one and only three-bowl “Nellie” bubbler in Portland is located in front of Portland Fire Station 1 at SW First Avenue and SW Ash Street. This rare three-bowl steel variation, named after benefactor Nellie Robinson, joins two four-bowl Nellie bubblers located between SW Clay Street and SW Market Street on SW Third Avenue.

Single Bowl Bubblers
The 70 single-bowl fountains can be found from Linnton to Sellwood, and from the SW Hills to Mt. Scott. Although the single-bowl variations look like Benson Bubblers, they are not.

Stone & Other Style Single Bowl
The Water Bureau is also responsible for the upkeep of two stone fountains, located respectively in Northeast and Northwest Portland, and four other single-bowl fountains in Northeast, North, and at the Powell Butte Nature Park’s Visitor Center.

Maintenance a Must

Cleaning the Bubblers Cleaning the Bubblers

Ground Maintenance staff are tasked with keeping each of the bubbling fountains cleaned, maintained, and running year round. Cleaning and preserving the different types of fountains takes varying techniques, tools, and parts and much institutional knowledge.

Conservation Efforts
Today, the bubblers use less than one-tenth of one percent of Portland's daily water demand. Here’s why:

  • In 1995, the bureau narrowed the feed lines to the bubblers, cutting water use almost in half.
  • In 2000, the bureau installed timers which shut the fountains off during low-usage periods.
  • In 2005, small, flow-restricting devices in the bubblers were installed, reducing the amount of water the fountains use by 40 percent.

For additional information on the bubblers, including a brochure and walking map, visit

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

The Right Stuff: September 2014 Bill Insert

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 September 2014 Bill Insert: Page 1 of 2

 September 2014 Bill Insert: Page 2 of 2
September 2014 Bill Insert 

Each quarter, the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Portland Water Bureau offer important information on rebates, payment options, drinking water quality, and water efficiency tips in printed inserts that accompany your sewer-stormwater-water bill. 

In the September bill, customers will find an insert highlighting five convenient payment options, financial assistance opportunities, and who customers can speak with in order to address questions or concerns about their bill. The insert can also be accessed online.

Customer Service

Dodge Park Cart Wins First Place at Sandy Parade

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Pennen, far left, and familyThe Portland Water Bureau’s Dodge Park has been used as a natural respite from the summer heat for more than 100 years by locals and Portlanders alike. Today, an ever increasing number of families enjoy the outdoors while camping at the park, located at the confluence of the Sandy and Bull Run rivers.

When Water Bureau Seasonal Park Attendant Pennen discovered that the theme for the City of Sandy’s 42nd Annual Sandy Mountain Festival was “Celebrating the Great Outdoors,” she came up with a creative way to promote the park and provide for some family fun on a sunny Saturday. 

Pennen usually drives the bureau’s utility cart around the park emptying trash, weed-cutting lawns, and cleaning fire pits and restrooms. To star in the parade, she gave the cart a good cleaning and decorated it as a camp site, complete with tent, lantern, camp chair, and trees. Her husband, Conway, a Water Bureau Watershed Specialist, drove the cart in the parade, while son Caiou and Pennen walked alongside, waving to onlookers.

Pennen was very surprised to learn that her ‘float’ had won first place in the miscellaneous category.

Way to go Pennen, Conway, and Caiou!

Get to Know Dodge Park
Located at the confluence of the Sandy and Bull Run rivers, Dodge Park is a playground in Portland’s backyard. Just 20 miles east of Portland, the park offers seasonal camping, year-round picnicking, fishing, and boating. The park is owned and managed by the Portland Water Bureau, which has a watershed maintenance facility nearby.

To learn more day use, the boat launch, camping, or reserving the Community Hall at Dodge Park, visit

Terry Black
Public Information

Customer Service Walk-In Center Closed Monday, September 1

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The Portland Water Bureau's Customer Service Walk-In Center will be closed on Monday, September 1 in observance of the Labor Day holiday.

The Walk-In Center, located on the first floor of the Portland Building at 1120 SW 5th Avenue, will reopen on Tuesday, September 2 at 8:00 a.m.

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