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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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Curious About Harvesting Rainwater?

As summer wraps up and Portlanders turn their attention to the inevitable rainy season to approach, the Water Bureau prepares to answer questions about the practicality of collecting and using some of that wet stuff that falls from the sky.

Collecting rainwater is an ancient practice that people have used throughout history. In Portland, capturing the abundant winter rainfall and putting it to work in your home or garden helps to connect residents with the water that sustains our community.

Portland’s municipal drinking water system, which collects water in the Bull Run watershed and delivers it, primarily, by gravity, is an example of a very large and efficient rainwater harvesting system. A rain barrel attached to the downspout of your house is an example of a very small rainwater harvesting system.


Rainwater Harvesting and the Environment

The environmental benefits of harvesting rainwater vary widely from climate to climate. In Portland, the climate is typically very wet in the winter and very dry in the summer. The primary benefit of a rainwater collection system in Portland, is that it can store and slow down the flow of winter rainwater into the city’s stormwater system. It is important to note that a large rainwater harvesting system benefits the stormwater management system more than a small rainwater harvesting system.

To have both a significant and a beneficial impact to the city’s drinking water supply, an individual rainwater harvesting system should be large enough to store spring rainfall for use throughout the entire summer and early fall months.

When planning your rainwater collection system, you should consider Portland’s dry summer climate, site capacity for collecting rainwater, and anticipated uses for rainwater before investing in a rainwater system.

Using Rainwater Outdoors

In Portland, you are not required to get a city permit to harvest rainwater and use it outdoors. However, since harvested rainwater is most often used for outdoor irrigation, (like watering a lawn or garden), you should consider how much rainwater storage capacity you will need for watering plants during the dry summer months when there is little rainfall.


Using Rainwater Indoors

Most indoor rainwater systems in Portland are for non-drinking water uses such as flushing a toilet. If you are thinking about harvesting rainwater for limited, residential indoor use, you will need to follow the relevant Code Guide for rainwater harvesting, which is available through the city’s Bureau of Development Services.

Any residential system exceeding Code Guide parameters, such as the use of rainwater for indoor drinking water use, requires prior approval to install a system through filing an appeal with the Bureau of Development Services.

All commercial rainwater harvesting systems require filing an appeal.


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Critters in the Bull Run Watershed

A snowshoe hare.

A female blacktail deer peers out from dense forest.



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Innovative Water Use Highlighted at This Year's "Build It Green" Tour of Homes

Saturday, September 25th

11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Portland Water Bureau is proud to be a sponsor of the 9th Annual Build it Green! Tour of Homes. 

This year, the tour features twenty-one green remodels and new homes throughout the metro area.  Many of the homes and affordable housing include solar panels, ecoroofs, rainwater harvesting, natural landscaping, water and energy conservation, reused building materials, alternative construction techniques, small footprints and much more. Homeowners and contractors will be available to share their personal experiences and to answer questions. Come be inspired!

The tour will take place on Saturday, September 25th from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.  Tour tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at or in person at Ecohaus.  A fun, free information fair featuring food, music, and green home products will follow at Ecohaus on 819 SE Taylor St (Portland) from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. 

To learn more visit

We hope to see you there. 

Tap Water

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Multnomah County "Takes Back the Tap!"

Commissioner Barbara Willer leads the charge to disallow the use of county funds for bottled water

This just in from Commissioner Willer's office:

"We are proud to announce that Multnomah County will affirm our commitment to environmental responsibility, sound business practices and saving tax dollars by changing our policies related to bottled water.  We are asking the employees of Multnomah County to join us in this effort and “Take Back the Tap.”In October, we will ask our colleagues on the Board of County Commissioners to enact a new policy to disallow the use of county funds for bottled water, except in cases of emergency or when no other viable alternative exists.  Meantime, our Facilities and Property Management staff will post signage where filtered water is available in our workplaces and will respond quickly to concerns or questions."

Commissioner Willer is urging county employees to Take the pledge.


To promote the initiative, the county will hold taste tests (bottled water vs. tap water) and screenings of excerpts from the film “Blue Gold” followed by a discussion of water issues for county employees.


Public Outreach

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Behind the Scenes at the Transportation Maintenance Bureau

The City of Portland's Transportation Bureau is having a Field Day (public open house) on Thursday, September 16th.

This is a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the work that goes on to support Portland's transportation, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. Water Bureau staff enjoyed this event and learned so much a few years ago that we started our own Water Bureau Field Day.

You can take a guided tour or spend the day working alongside a crew.

For more information or to register, contact the Maintenance Bureau at (503) 823-4416 or email them at