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Portland Water Bureau

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Water Bureau Shuts Off Groundwater, Returns Bull Run to Service

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Today the Portland Water Bureau turned off the water supply system at the Columbia South Shore Well Field and returned to 100% Bull Run water supply. The Portland Water Bureau began using groundwater on

January 16th due to recent heavy rains, producing turbidity levels that exceeded federal regulations for drinking water.  High turbidity events produce suspended solids in the drinking water.


According to Water Bureau Administrator David

Dam 1 spillway

Shaff, approximately 1.3 billion gallons of groundwater was used during the period January 16th through February 1, 2011. It will take

about 24 to 60 hours for Bull Run water to move through the distribution system and replace the groundwater.

Because the Bull Run water supply is unfiltered,

the Portland Water Bureau established the

Columbia South Shore Well Field. This backup groundwater system enables the Water Bureau to continue serving customers when the unfiltered

Bull Run system is unavailable during intense storm events.

“Portland is extremely fortunate to have two very high quality sources of drinking water,” says Shaff. “Having a back-up during storm events was an important reason the City developed the groundwater source. Without the well field we would be required to build a treatment plant and filter the Bull Run source. Few utilities have this flexibility.”

The well field became operational in 1985. It’s the second largest source of drinking water in Oregon, just after the Bull Run. The Portland Water Bureau has a strong resource protection program to regulate activities in the well head area to protect this invaluable resource.

For more information, go to

By the Numbers


This turbidity event produced incredible stream flow numbers:


  • Automated sensors at the North Fork tributary into the Bull Run River indicated the release of more than 14 inches of water from both rain and snow pack over a 24-hour period January 15 to 16.
  • Bull Run Reservoir No.1 crested above 1046 feet.  That is 10 feet over the top of the spillway and is the sixth highest reservoir stage ever measured at this dam since it was built 82 years ago.
  • The spillway at Dam No. 1 recorded a flow of 17,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).  The highest flows recorded since the dam was completed in 1929 were 18,200 cfs on November 25, 1999.  The Bull Run Reservoir No.1 rose to 1047 feet during that event.
  • Bull Run Reservoir No.2 crested at just over 865 feet. That is five feet over the spillway crest and is the fifth highest reservoir stage ever measured at this dam since it was built 49 years ago.
  • The flows recorded at Dam No. 2 were 19,450 cfs. This was the third highest flow recorded at that dam since it was completed in 1962.  The highest flow recorded at this dam was approximately 22,000 cfs on December 22, 1964.
  • Monitoring instruments located on the Bull Run River downstream of Dam No.2 measured a flow of 20,200 cfs.  A peak flow of 25,100 cfs was measured at this same site during the 1964 flood event.
  • Previous average duration of the operation of the Columbia South Shore Well Field due to turbidity is 11 days.  The shortest operation duration due to turbidity was 3 days and the longest was 23 days.

 -Terry Black

Acting Public Information Officer

(503) 823-1168


People Behind the Water: Carol Lane

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Meet Carol Lane, Engineering Tech II

Steelers or Packers? Just found out Packers are fan owned so: Packers.


Where were you born? Pennsylvania.


Tell me about a challenging project that you have been involved with at the Water Bureau. Water main replacements in the SW Hills are usually tough. I am often amazed that we are somehow able to install pipelines in that cramped, steep geography while avoiding all the other utilities, landslides, erosion, environmentally sensitive areas and homeowners who extend their extraordinarily well-tended gardens and rock walls over existing mains.


What do you enjoy most about your career? Variety of interesting and challenging projects and variety of co-workers.


What new skills have you developed during the past year? Immense patience, adaptability to constant change.


Have you ever become aware of a hazardous workplace condition? My cube. How did I handle it? Massive clean out.


If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be? Paul Newman.


For what advice or assistance do other employees turn to you? Where is the __________ ?


What single technical skill or ability is your best asset? Curiosity.


-Sarah Bott

We Call it "High Color"

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We Call it "High Color"

Color in the water can result from many sources. As we reactivate the Bull Run supply, color is most probably from decaying vegetation or soil brought into the system during our last storm. Organic matter that causes color is also referred to as humic matter and it could be the result of peat materials, plankton, and/or aquatic weeds.  Color does not directly influence turbidity, which is a measurement of the amount of light reflected by suspended particles. Turbidity is measured in nephelometric turbidity unit (NTUs) by a turbidimeter.  Color changes are normal for this time of year. While the color itself is not objectionable from the standpoint of health, its presence can be aesthetically objectionable to some people.

There are other sources of color which could occur in isolated situations, throughout our system. For example, the water could be colored because of an isolated pipe break, flushing operations, or something wrong with the customer's private plumbing.  Color can also be the result of iron,   manganese, or copper in the water, however this has typically not been a problem for our system. 


The Environmental Protection Agency considers color a secondary/aesthetic contaminant.  The secondary, non-enforceable maximum contaminant level, known as an SMCL, is 15 color units.  When color is measured,  a  stock color standard, with a color unit of 500 is diluted to make various tubes, with known color values.  The standard, known color values are compared to the sample and a color value is determined.  Color can also be measured with a spectrophotometer, which is the method used by the Portland Water Bureau (Standard Method for Water and Wastewater, 19th Ed.  2120C).


Crystal Yezman

Water Operations

People Behind the Water: Kristen Small

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Kristen Small, Engineering Tech II

Steelers or Packers?  Steelers.

Where were you born?  Elmhurst, Illinois.


Where did you go to school for your engineering degree?  I didn't. I got my degree in Journalism and English from the University of Iowa.

What do you enjoy most about your career?  Getting to use my writing and editing skills, and the variety of tasks I perform.

What is the last book you read?  "Flights of Love" by the German law professor Bernhard Schlink.  He also wrote "The Reader".

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?  The ability to fly.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be?  Mother Teresa.

For what advice or assistance do other employees turn to you?  Legal and grammatical.

What single technical skill or ability is your best asset?  Meeting tight deadlines.

If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?  Fun Czarina.

-Sarah Bott