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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 Earth Day!

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

Quarter Mile Pool, Upper Bull Run River

Portlanders have good reasons to celebrate!

Over the past ten years, our city’s population has grown by 18 percent—but the city’s total water use has decreased by 13 percent. Here are some ways you can be part of the trend:

Here are some ways the Portland Water Bureau works year-round to take care of natural resources:

  • We deliver most of the region's drinking water using a free and very efficient resource: gravity. When engineers designed Portland’s early water system in the 1890s, they designed pipelines to bring the water from Bull Run to Portland entirely by gravity.
  • As the water system delivers drinking water, it also produces clean energy. The Bull Run Dams and in-pipe turbines make use of the water moving through them, reducing the bureau’s net carbon footprint.
  • Because Portland's system relies on the Bull Run River for most of its water, there have been impacts to the fish populations native to the area. Through the Bull Run Water Supply Habitat Conservation Plan, the bureau works to protect fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act—Chinook and coho salmon, as well as steelhead trout—in the Bull Run and in the Sandy River Basin beyond.

Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project: April 2016 Update

By Lindsay Wochnick 0 Comments | Add a Comment

In order to comply with federal and state mandates and ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system, the Portland Water Bureau and Oregon general contractor Hoffman Construction Company are moving forward with an eight-year capital improvement project to update the Washington Park reservoir site at 2403 SW Jefferson Street.

Currently, Washington Park’s open Reservoirs 3 (upper) and 4 (lower) occupy the site along with two gate houses, a weir building, three pump houses, a generator house, and associated underground piping. The reservoirs are part of an ingenious gravity‐fed drinking water system constructed more than 120 years ago in 1893 and 1894, respectively.



The project entails building a new, seismically reinforced below ground reservoir. The reservoir will not only maintain the historic drinking water function provided by the original reservoirs, but will be engineered to withstand ongoing landslide encroachment and potentially catastrophic effects of a major earthquake and will feature a reflecting pool on top in the same general footprint as the historical Reservoir 3.


Reservoir 4 will be disconnected from the public drinking water system, and a lowland habitat area/bioswale and a reflecting pool will be constructed in the basin.

When complete and online, the new underground reservoir will supply water to Portland’s west side, including all downtown businesses and residents, the Oregon Zoo, more than 60 parks, six hospitals, and 20 Portland public schools.

Four major challenges are driving this project: aging facilities, seismic vulnerability, an ancient landslide, and the Long-Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2).

  1. Aging Facilities: Reservoirs are typically designed for 100 years of service. The two Washington Park reservoirs are more than 120 years old. Condition assessments performed at the Washington Park Reservoir site in 1997 and 2001 confirmed the reservoirs and structures were nearing the end of their useful service life.
  2. Seismic Vulnerability: The original facilities were designed and constructed prior to current seismic standards. They do not meet structural requirements for current anticipated seismic activity and, therefore, are vulnerable to severe damage or failure during a significant seismic event. Failure of these reservoirs and structures could be catastrophic, resulting in the loss of drinking water to the west side of Portland.
  3. Landslide: Washington Park’s ancient landslide at the reservoir site has been continuously damaging both reservoirs since original construction in the late 1800’s.
  4. Long-Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2): The 2006 federal regulation requires the City of Portland to protect its stored drinking water against contamination as part of the water quality requirements for safe drinking water. To address this requirement, the City is constructing alternative buried storage, allowing the uncovered reservoirs to be taken off‐line.

The project is part of the Water Bureau’s Capital Improvement Program and funded by revenue bond proceeds paid back with utility ratepayers’ fund. 

The project is happening now in order to meet four key deadlines identified in the compliance schedule approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Oregon Health Authority: 

  • March 30, 2016: Complete design
  • July 1, 2016: Begin construction
  • December 31, 2019: Complete Reservoir 3 construction
  • December 31, 2020: Disconnect Reservoir 4 from the city’s water system


Tree Pruning / Inspection Within project site, around the reservoirs, along SW Sacajawea Blvd, SW Lewis Clark Way, & SW Madison Ct          
Miscellaneous Site Work Inside Portland Water Bureau fencing          
Construction Fence Installation Project site          
Placement of Mobile Field Offices Project site, below Reservoir 4          
Vegetation / Tree Removal Around the reservoirs, by SW Sacajawea and Sherwood Blvds           
Erosion Control Project site          
Remove Steel Grillage, Fencing Project site          
Remove Weir Building East of Reservoir 3          

The project will span eight years; the first two years will trigger the most significant impacts to traffic, transportation, and parking in the park.

Park users are encouraged to travel to and move safely around the park and its attractions by using the bus and light rail, walking, biking and skating, and taking the free park shuttle. Visit and  for transit options.

Following is a description of upcoming project work and impacts spanning now until August 2016.

April – May 2016
Vegetation and trees will be removed below Reservoir 4 near the pump station facilities and adjacent to SW Jefferson Street. All work will occur within the project site. Selective tree pruning and inspection will also occur within the project site, around the reservoirs, and along SW Sacajawea Boulevard, SW Lewis Clark Way, and SW Madison Court.

  • Traffic Slowing: Travelers are encouraged to exercise caution and drive slowly around tree pruning work areas on SW Sacajawea Boulevard, SW Lewis Clark Way, and SW Madison Court. Pruning will occur intermittently Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

May - August 2016
Early site preparation work will occur, including construction fence installation, placement of mobile field offices, tree/vegetation clearing, and erosion control. 

  • Traffic Delays: Travelers may experience intermittent traffic flow delays up to 20 minutes on SW Sacajawea and SW Sherwood Boulevards due to pre-construction maintenance and removal of vegetation and trees in and around the project site.
  • Parking: All parking will remain open on SW Lewis Clark Way and SW Sacajawea and SW Sherwood Boulevards.
  • Park Facilities: All park facilities will remain open.
  • TriMet Bus Service: TriMet Bus Line 63 may have minor delays. Stop ID 6177 at SW Sacajawea/ Sherwood may be intermittently affected depending on pre-construction activity. Check for real time updates.

To contact us with questions or concerns or to change your preferences on how to receive project updates:

FAQs about Lead & Copper Rule

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

What is the Lead and Copper Rule?

  • The Lead and Copper Rule is the federal regulation that determines how water systems should treat drinking water to reduce lead and copper exposure from household plumbing.

Is Portland in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule?

  • Yes. Since 1997, the Portland Water Bureau has been in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

Is Portland’s water safe?

  • Yes. The Portland Water Bureau provides safe drinking water to almost 1 million customers in the greater Portland area.

Is there lead in Portland’s water?

  • Water-related lead exposure in Portland is linked to household plumbing, not to lead in our water or distribution system. Portland’s drinking water comes from two high-quality sources – the clean, cold and protected water of the Bull Run Watershed and Columbia South Shore Well Field. Our source water meets or exceeds all federal and state drinking water standards.

Who is most at risk for lead in water?

  • Children under six and pregnant women are most at risk for lead exposure, particularly if they live in homes with lead solder in their plumbing. These homes were typically built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985.

What are the sources of lead in drinking water in Portland?

  • In Portland, the greatest source of lead in water is household plumbing. Portland has never used lead service lines and has removed all known lead service connectors or pigtails (short 2-3’ pipes).

What homes are most at risk for lead?

  • In Portland, the homes most at risk for lead in water are homes with copper pipes joined with lead solder. These were generally built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985. However, the homes with the greatest risk for exposure to lead are those with lead-based paint. Homes built before 1960 are most likely to have lead-based paint.

How many homes are at risk for lead in water?

  • There are potentially up to 45,000 homes in the Portland Water Bureau’s service area that were built between 1970 and 1985. These homes are more likely to have lead solder.

What is the federal standard for lead?

  • The Lead and Copper Rule set the federal action level for lead at 15 parts per billion (ppb). This means that if ten percent of water samples from Tier 1 Homes (see below) return lead levels of over 15ppb, a water provider is required take action. This includes informing the public of steps to take to prevent exposure to lead in water.
  • Since 2006, Portland has recorded one lead exceedance. It occurred in 2013, and represented a total of 13 homes in the Water Bureau service area, including five homes in Portland.

How many at-risk homes potentially exceed the federal action level of 15 ppb?

  • Based on the Water Bureau’s testing, up to 10% of the at-risk homes may have elevated levels of lead that could exceed the federal action level of 15 ppb. These are homes PWB targets with its Lead Hazard Reduction Program. Customers in at-risk homes are encouraged to test their water for lead.

Does Portland treat drinking water to reduce lead?

  • Yes. Since 1997 the Portland Water Bureau has been adding sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, to increase the pH of its drinking water. This has reduced the lead in water levels in the most at-risk homes by more than 70%.

How does Portland monitor for lead in water?

  • The Portland Water Bureau monitors for lead in water in the highest-risk homes in the bureau’s service area. These homes, referred to as Tier 1 homes, were built or plumbed from 1983-1985 and are confirmed to have lead solder in their household plumbing. These homes are sampled every 6 months by testing the water after it has been sitting in the home plumbing for at least 6 hours, which is expected to represent the highest likely occurrence of lead.

What is a Tier 1 Home?

  • “Tier 1 Home” is a regulatory term that is defined as a home with a lead service line or a home built or plumbed between 1983 and June 30, 1985, that has lead solder. There are potentially 1,200 Tier 1 homes in the Water Bureau’s service area.

Other cities have lead service lines. Does Portland?

  • No. Portland has never used lead service lines. Prior to 1940, lead pigtails were used on some homes. Portland finished removing all known pigtails from the system in 1998.

What do Portland’s lead in water results mean?

  • Monitoring for lead in water from Tier 1 Homes is intended to capture a snapshot of the highest lead levels in the highest-risk homes as a way of monitoring the effectiveness of the bureau’s corrosion control treatment (see below). These results do not indicate the level of lead in the vast majority of homes in our system.

What does Portland do to reduce exposure to lead in water?

  • The Portland Water Bureau has a comprehensive corrosion control program to reduce lead in water, including:
    • Treating our drinking water with sodium hydroxide to reduce the potential for lead corrosion in home plumbing.
    • Conducting extensive education and outreach to customers in the most at-risk homes.
    • Providing information to all customers about simple steps they can take to reduce their exposure to lead in water.

What is the pH and alkalinity of Portland’s water?

  • Portland adjusts the pH of its drinking water to 8.0 to reduce corrosion of lead. Portland’s main source of water, the Bull Run, has an average alkalinity of 11 mg/L. Our secondary source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, has an average alkalinity of 101 mg/L.

Has Portland conducted corrosion control studies? When?

  • In 1994 Portland completed a corrosion control study that indicated raising the pH to 9.0 and adjusting alkalinity to 20 mg/L may provide additional reduction of lead in water. The Portland City Council directed the Water Bureau to look at alternative methods to reduce exposure to lead. The result is Portland’s current compliance program.
  • In 2014, in anticipation of changes to the water system, the Portland Water Bureau secured funding to begin a water quality corrosion study. That study will inform potential changes in the future. We expect preliminary results in the summer of 2016.

How can I tell if I have lead in my water?

  • By testing your water. The Portland Water Bureau offers free test kits. Contact the LeadLine at or calling 503-988-4000.

What can I do if I have lead in my water?

  • There are three common-sense steps people can take:
    • Run your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using the water for drinking or cooking after it has been standing for several hours.
    • Filter your water. Tests have shown more than 90% reduction of lead in water from this simple step.
    • Contact your local plumber to evaluate the possibility of replacing your plumbing.

What are other sources of exposure to lead?

  • In Portland the greatest source of exposure to lead is lead-based paint. Homes older than 1960 are most likely to have high levels of lead-based paint. To learn more about ways to reduce your exposure to all sources of lead contact the LeadLine at or 503-988-4000.

How can I test my child for lead exposure?

  • Multnomah County, in partnership with the Portland Water Bureau, provides free tests. In the 174 “investigations” that Multnomah County has conducted since 2013, there has been no link between lead and water. You can have your child tested by your pediatrician through the LeadLine. Dates and times of free blood lead testing clinics can be found at

Show Your Support for National Work Zone Awareness Week

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

With dry summer weather just ahead, travelers in Portland will likely see more construction work that impacts city streets. A lot of this work is to upgrade water mains and sewer pipes and repair road pavement. With this necessary work comes an increase in traffic delays. 

National studies indicate that driver distraction is the biggest factor in work zone collisions along with excessive vehicle speed.  And 40 percent of work zone collisions occur in the transition area just prior to the work zone.

The Portland Water Bureau recommends the following safety tips for motorists and bicyclists to keep in mind when observing bright orange signs, cones, barricades, utility workers, and traffic flaggers: 

  • Use an alternate route. When you can, avoid streets with posted work zones.
  • Expect delays.  Plan to leave early so you can drive safely through the work zone and avoid having to rush.
  • Be alert. Pay attention to the driving task and watch the cars ahead of you.
  • Obey all speed and warning signs. They are there for your safety and will help prevent a collision.  
  • Do not tailgate.  Double the following distance.
  • Carefully move over.  When possible give workers more room between them and your vehicle, but do not veer into on-coming traffic lane.
  • Watch for vehicle access. Be aware that temporary construction may impact either side of the road, or adjacent streets.
  • Stay clear of construction vehicles.  Heavy vehicles travel in and out of the work areas and can make sudden moves. 

Please help keep you, other drivers, and our workers protected by slowing down for work zone safety.

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

By Teresa Black Add a Comment

The public is invited to attend the Portland Water Bureau and Mt. Hood National Forest Bull Run working group meeting on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the in the Bull Run conference room on the 5th floor of the Portland Building at 1120 SW 5th Avenue in Portland.

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 Protection and Stewardship | The City of Portland, Oregon or