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Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204

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Protect Your Home's Plumbing this Winter

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Rain, ice and snow can play havoc with water pipes. Below are tips for protecting your home’s plumbing this winter:

OUTSIDE PLUMBING

  • Caulk around pipes where they enter the home.
  • Close all foundation vents and fill vent openings with wood or StyrofoamTM blocks.
  • Wrap outside faucets or hose bibs with insulation if you don’t have a separate outside valve to turn them off. Use molded foam-insulating covers which are available at hardware stores. Newspaper or rags (covered with plastic wrap) are another option. 
  • Disconnect garden hoses and drain in-ground irrigation systems.

INSIDE PLUMBING

  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as attics, crawl spaces and basements.
  • When below-freezing weather is forecast, open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms. This allows these pipes to get more heat from inside your home.
  • If you leave home for several days, put your furnace on a low setting. This may not prevent freezing pipes but it can help.
  • Let a slight drip of water run when temperatures dip below freezing. Use cold water to avoid water heating charges.

WHAT IF PIPES FREEZE?

  • Thaw plumbing lines safely with a hair dryer or heat lamp. Once the pipe has thawed, make sure to leave a little water running so the pipe doesn’t freeze again.
  • Do not open the water meter box near the curb. It could increase the chance of freezing water at the meter.

WHAT IF PIPES BREAK?

  • Close your main water shut-off valve to your house. Most shutoff valves are located where the water line enters the house, either at the front of your house where you connect your hose, or basement near the hot water heater, or inside the garage.
  • Turn off the water heater. Locate the dedicated shut-off valve on the cold water inlet.
  • Remember, the repair of broken pipes on the customer’s side of the meter is the customer’s responsibility. Contact a plumber for repair work.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

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TRAFFIC ADVISORY 12/02/13: Broken Water Main Under Repair on NE 92nd Avenue, Between NE Hill Way and NE Russell Place

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A Portland Water Bureau maintenance crew is on the scene of a main break on NE 92nd Avenue, between NE Hill Way and NE Russell Place. 

Around 12:00 noon, water was reported seeping up through the pavement. The cracked 62-year old 8-inch cast iron pipe caused water to flow into the street and nearby catch basins.

At this time, water to the broken pipe has been shut off. About 25 houses may temporarily be out of water during the work.

No flooding damage has been reported.

Traffic on NE 92nd Avenue, a residential street, will be flagged around the work zone. Crews will be onsite until work is completed, likely into the evening hours.

Tim Hall
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It’s “Snow” Secret: Freezing Weather Is Here!

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The Portland Water Bureau will begin turning off the city's Benson Bubbler drinking fountains this week due to forecasts of freezing temperatures and windy conditions, which could potentially cause safety hazards on sidewalks for pedestrians. Once temperatures warm up, the iconic Bubblers will be turned back on.

The Water Bureau reminds the public that freezing temperatures can challenge Portland's aging water system and household water pipes. Now is the time to identify where the water shut-off valve is located in your house. Most residential properties have a shut-off valve located near the hot water heater in the basement or garage.

Water is much more likely to freeze in household plumbing than at the water meter. If water is running from any faucet, the meter is not frozen. Learn more about why pipes freeze and what you can do to help prevent your plumbing from freezing.

Lindsay Wochnick
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Did You Know...Why a Water Main Breaks?

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The Portland Water Bureau’s Maintenance & Construction crews are called out at all hours day and night to repair broken water mains, an average 200 times a year. Most of these repairs involve cast iron and galvanized pipes.  Out of more than 2,100 miles of the city’s water pipe network, there remains about 1,350 miles of cast iron pipe of a variety of ages in the water system. 

100-Year Old Broken Cast Iron Pipe
100-Year Old Broken Cast Iron Pipe

In Portland, cast iron water mains tend to break during the colder times of year, or what our crews call “Main Break Season.”  Colder water can make pipes more brittle. Adding cold air temperatures at or below freezing can cause the ground above a pipe to freeze thereby increasing external stress on a pipe.

Temperature is just one factor. The age of the pipe is another. However, Portland has pipes that are over 100-years old that have not experienced a break. Still, the Water Bureau replaces about five miles of old and vulnerable pipes each year with more durable steel and ductile iron water mains.

Other factors can have an effect on aging pipe. This includes soil conditions, pipe corrosion and ground movement. Disturbances around a water main from work on underground utilities like sewer and natural gas lines as well as road construction can cause an old main to weaken over time and later break. 

Our Maintenance & Construction crews say it usually takes about a week following a cold snap before they start seeing main breaks. 

Crews excavate site to get to pipe
Crews excavate site to get to pipe

On October 29th, there was a major main break of a 24-inch diameter, 100-year old pipe on W Burnside Street at SW 4th Avenue. Since November 27th, our crews have repaired five main breaks, which is the highest concentration the bureau has seen this year. On December 1st, our crews responded to a break on NE 92nd Avenue, near NE Hill Way. It was an 8-inch diameter cast iron pipe that had been in the ground just 62 years.

Some main breaks cause major street repairs
Some main breaks cause major street repairs

When the Portland Water Bureau is repairing a main break, please remember we appreciate the patience and understanding of customers and motorists affected by the temporary water service shutdown and street closure.

Tim Hall
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Portland Building & Water Bureau's 1st Floor Customer Service Walk-In Center Has Re-Opened as of 8:00 am on Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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UPDATE
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
8:00 AM

CUSTOMER NOTIFICATION
The Portland Building, including the 1st floor Portland Water Bureau Customer Service Walk-In Center, has re-opened as of 8:00 am on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

Thank you for your patience and we apologize for the inconvenience.

####

UPDATE
Monday, December 9, 2013
5:00 PM

CUSTOMER NOTIFICATION
The Portland Building, including the 1st floor Portland Water Bureau Customer Service Walk-In Center, will be closed until 8:00 am on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 due to a power outage.

Until power is restored, you are invited to pay your bill in the following ways:

  • Online
  • By phone: Contact 503-823-7770, press 1
  • Drop off: Leave a payment in the Water Bureau's night box located outside the front door at 1120 SW 5th Avenue.

Customers that experience urgent water problems should call the Portland Water Bureau's 24/7 emergency hotline at 503-823-4874.

Please check back on the Water Bureau's website for updates.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information 

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