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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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NEWS RELEASE 07/16/15: Portland Water Bureau to Augment Supply with Groundwater

By Jaymee Cuti Add a Comment

Beginning Thursday, July 16, the Portland Water Bureau will begin using its groundwater wells in the Columbia South Shore Well Field to ensure adequate water supply to its customers.

Portland is not experiencing a water supply shortage. The Bull Run watershed, in combination with the Columbia South Shore Well Field, is capable of meeting Portland’s water needs throughout the summer.

Public notification is not required but the Portland Water Bureau informs the media and sensitive water users, as a practice, when it activates groundwater. One change that customers may notice is a slight increase in hardness. The media and sensitive water users will again be notified when the Portland Water Bureau returns to 100 percent Bull Run water or if there is a need to increase the use of groundwater above 40 percent.

Due to the dry spring weather, above average summer temperatures, and in consideration of available long-term weather forecasts, the Portland Water Bureau will utilize the Columbia South Shore Well Field to supplement supply for the immediate future. As a result of careful planning, Portland is fortunate to have access to two excellent water sources that allow us to be prepared to meet the range of supply and demand conditions that occur in the Portland water system.

The Columbia South Shore Well Field is a high-quality water supply that meets or surpasses all federal and state drinking water regulations. During the hottest days of July this year, the Water Bureau saw relatively high demand, around 150 million gallons per day. When the temperature dropped, customers went back to using closer to 130 million gallons per day, which is similar to average usage in early July last year. It is anticipated that groundwater will contribute approximately 25 percent of supply and may be increased up to 40 percent if above average demands continue.

“In Portland, we’re fortunate to have two high quality sources of water,” said Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff. "As other parts of the nation are struggling to meet their water supply needs, it's comforting that we can turn to our Columbia South Shore Well Field to meet all our customers’ needs."

As part of our ongoing summer supply planning, the Portland Water Bureau carefully monitors water levels, weather forecasts, and water use patterns to ensure adequate, clean water for all of our customers.  The Portland Water Bureau will be managing our water supply carefully throughout the remainder of this summer, so that we continue to meet our obligations.

Depending on location, it may take up to a week for groundwater to move through the distribution system and reach customers. Weekly supply updates will be posted to For more information about Portland’s drinking water quality, call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

Jaymee Cuti
Public Information

Success Story: New Pumping System Helps Clean Powell Butte Reservoirs

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

In May, staff in the Portland Water Bureau’s Operations Group utilized a new pumping system to help clean the Powell Butte Reservoir 1.

Left: Operating engineers connect pump discharge hoses to the drain pipe.
Right: An operating engineer trainee operates the discharge sluice gate.

The new system is composed of a large towable generator, electric submersible pump, above ground hoses, and sprinkler system. The generator powers a pump which is placed directly into the reservoir drain vault. The pump is attached to above ground hoses.

A Water Bureau electrician works on the Pump control panel.

The hoses are used to disperse the dechlorinated water onto newly established native grasses and shrubs planted around the Powell Butte Nature Park site.

Sprinkler for Flygt pump.
Sprinkler for Flygt pump.

Although the bureau has a permit to discharge dechlorinated water into Johnson Creek, this system provides an environmentally friendly alternative.

Forest Service Update to Reflect Congressional Law

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

The Forest Service has proposed an administrative change for the Bull Run Watershed.

This administrative change would update the land use allocations in Bull Run to be consistent with legislation passed by Congress in 1996 and 2001 to prohibit timber harvest in the watershed. This administrative change would update the land use allocations in the Mt. Hood Land and Resource Management Plan (1990), as amended by the Northwest Forest Plan (1994). 

The change in timber harvest policy has already been made by Congress.  The administrative change to the Forest Plan is, however, open for public comment for 30 days, until August 10, 2015.

Sara Petrocine
Resource Protection & Planning


Water Bureau To Flush Water Mains in SE Portland Neighborhoods

By Lindsay Wochnick

Unidirectional flushing maintains the water system.

To clean and maintain the drinking water system, the Water Bureau uses Unidirectional Flushing (UDF) to scour and clean the insides of the water delivery pipes. 

UDF Flushing mapBeginning the week of July 13 and lasting through the summer months, the Portland Water Bureau will conduct UDF of the water mains in the following southeast Portland neighborhoods: 

  • Powellhurst-Gilbert
  • Pleasant Valley/Powellhurst-Gilbert
  • Pleasant Valley

Flushing will occur between SE 111th Avenue on the west, SE 145th Avenue on east, SE Holgate Boulevard on the north, and SE Brookside Drive, SE 122nd Drive, and SE Blackberry Circle on the south. CLICK HERE to view a map of the flushing area.

Using Water Wisely this Summer
Flushing water from a hydrant is an important and necessary practice to maintain water quality in the distribution system. This practice is used to flush discolored water from the pipes, keep water fresh in low use areas and dead-ends, and to clean inside pipes. This process is regularly monitored by Water Bureau staff to make sure the water is used wisely while maintaining water quality.

What you can Expect to See
Unidirectional flushing will have minimal impacts to customers. If you see hydrant flushing crews working in the area, please drive carefully and treat them like any other road construction crew.

During flushing, residents in the immediate vicinity of flushing may notice temporarily discolored water and lower than normal water pressure. The discoloration does not pose a health risk. However, avoid using tap water or running the washing machine or dishwasher until your water runs clear. After flushing, if you still experience discolored water, turn on each cold water faucet in your house and allow them to run for several minutes or until the water is clear.

Flushing usually occurs Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

How Does UDF Work?
UDF works by forcing water in the pipes to flow at much higher speeds than normal. Flushing crews first open and close valves to isolate sections of pipe, and then the water and any sediments in the pipes are flushed out through an open fire hydrant. Residents may observe water gushing from an open hydrant.

Improving and Maintaining High-Quality Drinking Water
Drinking water systems, especially unfiltered systems like Portland, need to routinely clean the network of pipes to improve water quality. Over time, very fine sediment and organic matter from the Bull Run settle out of the water and accumulate in the bottom of the pipes. While the sediments are generally harmless, they can make the disinfectant in the water less effective. Additionally, sudden changes in the flow of water can disturb these sediments resulting in discolored water.

Call the Portland Water Bureau Water Line from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at 503‐823‐7525 with any questions or to report ongoing water quality problems. For more information, updates, and maps, visit

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

Our Water Supply, An Update

By Lindsay Wochnick Add a Comment

Reservoir 1 in drawdown, July 2015 
Reservoir 1 in drawdown, July 2015

The U.S. Drought Monitor identified Portland as experiencing a moderate drought in its weekly map of drought conditions last week.

It is important for Portland metro area water users to note that while the Drought Monitor has made its assessment based on factors including local stream flows, temperature and soil moisture, Portland does not have a water supply shortage.

The report itself explains, “Municipal water supplies for the metropolitan areas of western Oregon and Washington are adequate even though the other indicators are showing intense drought development, especially over the last two months.”  

Portland’s water source, the Bull Run Watershed, is a low-elevation watershed that gets its water primarily from rain, not snow. The watershed gets approximately 135 inches of rain each year, about 3-4 times more rain than we get here in town.

Thanks to careful planning, the Portland area has a high-quality secondary water source. The Columbia South Shore Well Field can be used in addition to the Bull Run supply during dry periods.

The Bull Run watershed, in combination with the Columbia South Shore Well Field, is capable of meeting Portland’s water needs throughout the summer.

A Q&A about Portland’s water supply can be viewed here. You can also find updates at the Portland Water Bureau’s Seasonal Water Supply Planning webpage.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Jaymee Cuti
Public Information