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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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Book Signing for Water: Portland's Precious Heritage

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Casey Short signing Water: Portland's Precious HeritageIn case you are looking for the perfect Portland book to give/get this season, we proudly recommend Water: Portland's Precious Heritage by Casey Short. This second edition tells the story of Portland, Oregon’s municipal water supply system from the 1850’s to the present day. The book was originally drafted at the request of then-Mayor Ivancie and published in 1983. This second edition adds several pivotal decades in Portland's water history, and brings to life the personalities and politics involved in the stewardship of Portland’s water.
The Oregon Historical Society is hosting A Celebration of Oregon Authors with book signing this Sunday, December 4th from noon to 4 p.m. (1200 SW Park Avenue). The book is available for just $6.50 to cover the cost printing.
David Shaff

How Heavy Rains Affect Your Water

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A Portland Water Bureau Facebook fan posted a comment during the recent storm event in late November:

Hey, so I thought that since you guys are in the water business and all, you might have an inside track on this whole rain deal. Can you pass on a message to whomever manages the rain that while we appreciate their gumption and generosity, we all are in desperate need of some sunlight? Any assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated. :)

Aerial view of where the North Fork of the Bull Run River flows into Reservoir 1 after a heavy rainThis humorous query made a few of us here at the bureau ask, do Portland Water Bureau customers know how rain storms can affect their drinking water, and what we do to ensure that potential impacts are minimized?

Portland Water Bureau staff constantly reviews weather and rainfall patterns and forecasts, not only to predict water supply, but also because very wet conditions and storms can affect one important aspect of Bull Run water: turbidity. Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness caused by individual particles (suspended solids) that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in the air. Normally, turbidity levels in Bull Run water are very low, but, during storms, the Bull Run River and its tributaries can carry dirt and other organic debris into the Bull Run reservoirs.

Federal regulations set allowable turbidity levels at less than 5 nephelometric turbidity units (or NTU). A water treatment plant that uses filtration would trap and detain most of the solids that cause turbidity, but Bull Run water is very high quality and does not need to be filtered. Therefore, we monitor turbidity not only in the Bull Run reservoirs, but also in all of the major streams that feed the reservoirs.

When a storm starts, the Portland Water Bureau Operations group focuses its efforts on collecting and analyzing this stream flow data to predict whether the flows into the river, reservoirs, and intake are vigorous enough to churn up sediment and affect water quality. These analysts also look at the rate of change of the turbidity. Interestingly, we have found that, when the daily average flow on the largest tributary exceeds 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), there is a strong probability that the turbidity at the intake—the point where water leaves the reservoirs for treatment and transport—will exceed 5 NTU (the allowable limit).

If this exceedance is likely, the staff who operate the Columbia South Shore Well Field will be put on alert in case the Bull Run supply must be shut down. When turbidity levels reach Portland Water Bureau’s threshold (lower than the 5 NTU regulatory limit), the staff at the well field start pumping groundwater as the Bull Run Supply is shut down. Groundwater initially blends with the Bull Run water already in distribution system pipes and tanks until, over the course of a few days, water served is 100% groundwater. Our Community Information staff let our customers know that we will be serving groundwater, water quality staff alert sensitive water users of expected water quality changes, and our Customer Service staff gear up for questions from customers.

So during the next storm, when most Portlanders are sitting cozy at home or their favorite beverage establishment, know that the employees at the Portland Water Bureau are working to ensure that it delivers high-quality water to its customers.

Terry Black

Sr. Community Outreach and Information Representative

Media Release: Portland to Request an Extension on its Reservoir Replacement

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For Immediate Release


Contact:          Darcy Cronin,Portland Water Bureau

                      (503) 823-8064

Portland to Request an Extension on its Reservoir Replacement Schedule

December 14, 2011

PORTLAND OR—The Portland Water Bureau received a response yesterday from the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program (OHA) to its request for an indefinite suspension in Portland’s uncovered drinking water reservoir compliance schedule during EPA’s review of the federal LT2 rule.

OHA responded that while EPA’s undertaking of a review of the LT2 rule is not a basis for an extension, EPA has provided guidance on what facts may warrant compliance schedule adjustments.

“EPA still hasn’t indicated why New York City is being treated differently than Portland regarding uncovered reservoirs,” said David Shaff, Water Bureau Administrator, referring to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s statement earlier this year that New York City may be eligible for alternative compliance options. “However, we do see that EPA has provided some direction on how a compliance schedule can be amended which will now be the focus of our attention and efforts.”

Per EPA’s new guidance, the City of Portland therefore will request an extension for its reservoir replacement schedule from OHA.


Boil Your Neti Pot Water

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Water used in neti pots should always be boiled.It's stuffy nose season, and you may be in the habit of using a neti pot to clean your sinuses. However, we want you to be safe.

Recent news about the death of 2 people in Louisiana who died after using a neti pot with amoeba-infested water prompted a comment on our Facebook page.

Like Louisiana's health authorities, we recommend that customers boil (and cool!) water before using it to irrigate your sinuses. 

We do not test for the "brain-eating" amoeba Naegleria fowleri. The reason is because this particular amoeba is only present in water much warmer than Portland's very cold Bull Run drinking water source. That being said, it's recommended that water heater thermostats are set at 125 degrees, because lower temperature setting can result in the growth of bacteria that can cause a sulfur/rotten egg smell in the hot water.

Again, to be on the safe side, we recommend that you always bring water to a rolling boil and cool prior to using in your neti pot.

Darcy Cronin

Community Involvement and Information


Portland Loo Goes International

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Cover of the Global Guideline for Practical Public Toilet DesignThe City of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada proudly purchased the first Portland Loo ever exported to a foreign city, endearingly called the Langley Street Loo. The Loo was purchased for the price of $90,000. As part of the purchase agreement, our very own Loo installation expert, engineer David Gray traveled to Victoria for the installation. Everything went very well, and now citizens and tourists have 24 hour access to a restroom near Bastion Square, a beautiful and busy public market and tourist destination.

Then we got word that the Portland Loo has become a poster child for public toilets…a photo of the first Portland Loo will be on the cover of the Global Guideline for Practical Public Toilet Design, published by the International Code Council and The tagline for the International Code Council is “People Helping People Build a Safer World,” and we couldn’t agree more. Exporting Portland Loo’s will help improve the world one toilet at a time…and at a profit for the City of Portland!

Lastly, if you haven't checked it out lately, our Portland Loo website ( is growing thanks to Brash Creative, a student run marketing group at the Art Institute of Portland. They also produced a quick video of a Portland Loo installation!

Enjoy your next visit to a local Portland Loo!

Anne Hill
Project Management Analyst