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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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Happy "Water" New Year!

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You may be just easing into autumn, but today is really the new year, at least for the annual "water" calendar.

October 1 is the beginning of a new water year. Water Year 2012 will run from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012. The reasons we use this off-kilter calendar are practical, if you think about the weather.

In many parts of the U.S., the heaviest precipitation happens in spring, fall, and winter. A graph of precipitation during the calendar year shows a pattern that is approximately a U shape—the dry summer flanked by the rain and snow seasons. The 1995 calendar year has a relatively flat U shape, with the exception of high November rains.

"Water Year" graph for 1995

When rain and snowfall data are illustrated using the water year, the entire season of rain and snowfall is captured in a single water year. The graph for Water Year 1996 shows the high precipitation in late 1995 and early in 1996 that resulted in flooding in Portland and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. 

Water Year Precipitation 1996

The graph of calendar year 1996 shows the end of the heavy precipitation period in 1996, the drier summer period, and the start of another cycle of rain and snow—the beginning of Water Year 1997.

Graph of the Calendar Year 1996 Average Monthly Precipitation for Portland

The “Water Year” designation was first suggested in the 1800s by John Wesley Powell to the then-new U.S. Geological Survey to understand the seasonal wet and dry periods that characterize western lands. In this century, the Water Year is officially defined in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (Title 43—Public Lands) and is used by hydrologists and water scientists.

So, Happy New Year!

Weather data source: National Weather Service

Darcy's law - a new voice for the Water Blog

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Darcys law help calculate the porosity of groundI first learned about “Darcy’s law” when I arrived at the Portland Water Bureau four years ago. I had studied marine biology in college, but somehow hydrogeology and groundwater had never intrigued me.

Pat Easley, a senior engineer in the groundwater group, was happy to explain how the law helps calculate the porosity or permeability of the ground that groundwater flows through. While Pat doesn’t use this info on a daily basis, it is a key calculation when establishing a new well field.

Darcy’s law is likely irrelevant to your daily life, but water is essential.

As a new writer for the Water Blog, I’ll share the many stories behind your tap water. I plan to bring diverse perspectives from the bureau to explain why they care about their work and why you should too. I’ll also bring stories from across the country and around the globe to remind you of just how lucky we are to have such fresh flowing water.

I'm a personal fan Portland’s water. I slurp, shower, and sprinkle our water with gratitude. My enthusiasm isn’t diminished in the face of bureaucratic frustrations like LT2, because I have confidence that a bureau with such a deep history of providing Portland’s water will be able to meet any challenge. Our crews will repair 2 a.m. main breaks and our resource protection team will protect and restore the watershed. Even our finance staff will work diligently to figure out how to keep rates as low as possible. In short, we all do our best every day to provide clean, cold, cheap and constant water to you.

I hope you will continue to use the Water Blog as a source of information and connection. With any luck, you will gain a better understanding of the human equation of water.

Did you know about Darcy's law?


Darcy Cronin

Senior Community Outreach Representative


Portland Water Bureau and Mt. Hood National Forest Bull Run Working Group Meeting

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The public is invited to attend the Portland Water Bureau and Mt. Hood National Forest Bull Run working group meeting on Friday, October 28, 2011, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at the Mt. Hood National Forest Headquarters located at 16400 Champion Way in Sandy, Oregon.


The Portland Water Bureau partners will multiple agencies to protect the Bull Run watershed.

Under the terms of a 20-year agreement between the Portland Water Bureau and Mt.Hood National Forest, staff engaged in the management of the Bull Run watershed, Portland’s primary drinking water source, will meet semi-annually each year.

The purpose of these meetings is to review work plans, budgets and staff assignments; and communicate accomplishments and issues addressed during the course of management activities. An annual report is presented at the spring meetings.

For more information about the 20-year stewardship agreement between the Portland Water Bureau and the Mt.Hood National Forest, please go to Cooperative Management or

Terry Black

Sr. Community Outreach & Information Representative

Water Bureau Staff Get SOAKED

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"SOAKED" group from autumn 2011One of the biggest training challenges many water bureau staff have is the age old dilemma that “you don’t know, what you don’t know.” Staff is rightfully specialized in a myriad of fields, and it’s often difficult to see the connections and importance of each piece in the system. The bureau’s SOAKED training gives employees the chance to meet people from different work groups, take field trips to construction sites, and learn about the many roles and responsibilities that make up the Portland Water Bureau.


Last autumn I had the opportunity to “get SOAKED”, and I likened it to water bureau grad school. I learned about virtually all aspects of the bureau, and realized just how complex and interrelated our work truly is.


SOAKED is a nifty acronym for Sharing Our Assets and Knowledge for Employee Development.  The training program is an opportunity for staff from diverse fields to learn together about what it takes to supply Portland’s water: protect, treat, supply, budget, engineer, build, fix…


Here are some quotes from participants about what they learned:


Participants learn how to repair a main break.

§          “SOAKED provided an opportunity to explore and understand different departments within the Portland Water Bureau. For a customer service representative, this was a unique learning opportunity that provided background information for day to day operations.”


§          “As a customer service representative, we receive questions and concerns ranging over all departments of the Water Bureau. This program helped me identify specific scenarios in the field and will help me relate customer’s concern effectively within our bureau.”


§           “I did not realize how many departments and functions existed that are necessary to the Water Bureau’s ability to provide water and its services.  I realized that none of the functions were more important than another, nor can any one department function without the other.”


§          “When talking with managers or looking at budget/expenditures on certain items – I now have a much better understanding of what each work group does, which will also help me help these managers create their budget and track expenditures to see if they are correct and accurate.”

Exercise called "meter madness" to learn how meters operate.

§         “It will help me communicate more efficiently with other departments and understand how the bureau operates.”

§          “The breadth of information that I gained about the bureau and the jobs people do will translate to a higher degree of quality I can apply in my work.”

Kudos to Sara Maier, Senior Engineering Associate in Operations, for leading this successful round of SOAKED training!


Darcy Cronin

Sr. Community Outreach Representative

LT2 News: Congressional delegation weighs in on the LT2 uncovered reservoir requirement & Oregon Health Authority replies to request for suspension of compliance schedule

By Teresa Black 0 Comments | Add a Comment

Portland Water Bureau customers are increasingly becoming familiar with a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water requirement known as the LT2 rule.

The rule requires that water systems with uncovered Aerial view of Mt Tabor reservoirs

finished water reservoirs, like those at Portland’s Mt.Tabor and Washington parks, either cover the reservoirs or provide treatment at the outlets of the reservoirs to either remove or inactive Cryptosporidium and other viruses. The rule states that no variance is available.

The City pursued guidance from the EPA and the state

of Oregon on how to secure a variance/waiver to maintain the open reservoirs, and was told that no variance was possible.

Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) requested that the EPA reconsider the requirement to coverNew York’s Hillsdale Reservoir. He received a reply from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stating that different reservoirs around the country have different specific conditions and protections that may have a bearing on the public health benefits of the LT2 coverage requirement and that the agency would review the LT2 rule. A few days later, Commissioner Randy Leonard made a request to Senator Merkley to assist in the identification of cost-effective alternative compliance options.

Today, the Portland Water Bureau received a copy of a letter signed by Oregon’s congressional delegation asking the EPA to include an assessment of Portland’s drinking water system, and for the review team to thoroughly explore whether there are more cost-effective ways to counter the risks of contaminated water, given the unique characteristics of the Bull Run watershed and other attributes of Portland’s drinking water system.

Also today the Portland Water Bureau received a reply from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) regarding the City’s request for a suspension to the schedule for taking the open reservoirs off-line in order to seek alternative methods of compliance. OHA has primacy for enforcing the LT2 rule. OHA is waiting for guidance on this issue from the EPA and will respond to the City’s request once that guidance has been received and reviewed.

The Portland Water Bureau posts correspondence on LT2 as soon as it is received, check the LT2 webpages for occasional updates.

Terry Black

Sr. Community Outreach & Information Representative