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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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TRAFFIC ADVISORY 01/12/15: Survey Work with Rolling Lane Closure on NW Cornell Road for One Day

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For one day on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, the Portland Water Bureau must conduct survey and centerline monument data collection work on NW Cornell Road, between NW Skyline Boulevard and the Audubon Society of Portland's building at 5151 NW Cornell Road in the West Hills area.

The work will be done using a rolling work zone that will close a section of one traffic lane. At times, flaggers will stop traffic in both directions. The lane closure begins at 9:00 a.m. and will continue until 3:30 p.m. the same day. There will be a maximum wait time of five (5) minutes for each direction of traffic.

Motorists and bicyclists are urged to use alternate routes, remember to drive slowly, and exercise caution when traveling in the work area.

Terry Black
Public Information

Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

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One of Portland’s most valuable resources is right beneath our feet. We can’t see it, but we do drink it!

Groundwater, found in underground layers of porous rock called aquifers, is a hidden reserve that supplies drinking water to Portland residents. Portland’s groundwater system is essential to meeting peak season water demand in the summer and for ensuring the Portland Water Bureau can provide water in the winter when storms sometimes make the Bull Run source unavailable due to elevated turbidity. This second feature of groundwater is essential to Portland’s ability to continue using the Bull Run source without filtering it.

To help bring groundwater to the surface, the Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council have partnered annually for 10 years to offer a free Groundwater 101 workshop to interested adults and high-school students.

A full house soaks up knowledge at Groundwater 101.

This interactive class teaches groundwater basics including local geology and hydrology, the role groundwater plays in our drinking water system, and what can be done to protect this important resource. 

Citizen scientists test water for dissolved minerals (left) and learn how water moves underground (right).

The most recent workshop was held on November 15, 2014 and the public interest was impressive. The class quickly filled to capacity and a wait-list was established. The workshop coordinators are encouraged by the demand and are working on more opportunities for the public to learn about groundwater.

"The Columbia South Shore Well Field is right here in town, so we all play a role in preserving this vital drinking water source,” says Doug Wise, Groundwater Protection Program Manager with the Water Bureau’s Resource Protection and Planning Group. “Outreach and educational events like Groundwater 101 provide our customers with the knowledge and tools they need to be responsible water stewards.”

To learn more about the groundwater right beneath your feet, including how you can protect this important resource, visit

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

Water Quality at Home: White Cloudy Water

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Throughout the year, the Portland Water Bureau’s Water Line receives calls from customers who say their tap water appears milky white or cloudy.  In the majority of cases the cloudy water is caused by harmless air bubbles, but sometimes it can indicate a water heater issue.  Fortunately, determining the cause is as simple as filling up a clear glass with water and setting it on the counter.  

  • If the water clears from the bottom of the glass to the top, the water has air bubbles.  This reaction sometimes occurs when cold water from underground mains enters warmer pipes inside your home.  Since cold water holds more dissolved air than warm water, as water warms air may be released as tiny bubbles when a tap is turned on.  The water is safe to drink, the discoloring is just the result of a harmless reaction.
  • If the water in the glass clears from the top-down, and white or grey particles settle to the bottom, this may indicate a water heater issue.   To determine the type of issue, remove some of the particles from the water and add them to a small amount of vinegar.  If the particles dissolve, this indicates mineral content and your hot water heater may require maintenance.  If the particles don’t dissolve, it is likely the water heater dip tube is breaking down and repair is needed.

To learn more about home water quality, visit or call the Water Line at 503-823-7525 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday). 

Coming Cold Snap Prompts Shutdown of Benson Bubblers; Time to Prepare for Frozen Pipes

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January 6
With the weather warming up, the Portland Water Bureau has begun turning the Bubblers back on. Portlanders can once again get a refreshing drink when they want.


The Portland Water Bureau has begun to turn off the city's Benson Bubbler drinking fountains due to forecasts for 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 Portland Water Bureau reminds the public that cold temperatures have the potential to cause freezing pipes that can damage private property. Here are several precautions to help avoid and minimize potential impacts: 

  • Inside your house make sure that hot and cold pipes are insulated in unheated areas, such as the garage, crawl space, and attic.
  • Open a few cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms to allow pipes behind walls and under floors to get additional heat from inside your house.
  • Let a slight drip of water run from faucets when temperatures dip below freezing. This keeps water moving, making it less likely to freeze.
  • Outside the house, disconnect hoses from faucets.
  • Wrap faucets and backflow assemblies with insulating covers or material.
  • Cover foundation vents with foam blocks, thickly folded newspaper or cardboard.

While completing these preparations, it's also important to know the location of the house or building's main water shut‐off valve in case a pipe breaks inside. Most shut‐off valves are located in the following locations: 

  1. The crawl space or basement, where the water line from the meter enters the home.
  2. In the garage where the water line enters the wall or ceiling, near the water heater or laundry hookup.
  3. Outside the house near the foundation, often protected by a concrete ring or clay pipe.

Main breaks, service leaks, and frozen water meters can also occur as a result of cold weather. If you observe running water in the street, believe you are not receiving water from your meter, or experience an urgent water problem, please contact the Portland Water Bureau's 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 503‐823‐4874.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

1964 Flood Remembered

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This day marks the 50-year anniversary of what is known as the1964 Christmas flood, which caused significant damage throughout Oregon.

In Portland, the lower deck of the Steel Bridge was underwater and had also been hit by a log raft consisting of around 1,000 logs.  The impact of the raft severely damaged the Hawthorne Bridge, closing it for a year. At 12 feet above flood stage, the flooding of the Willamette River at Portland in 1964 was second only to the 1948 flood that wiped out Vanport. At its peak, the water was at the top of downtown Portland's seawall.  Landslide in Bull Run

The 1964 Christmas event caused significant damage to the water system infrastructure in the Bull Run Watershed. Conduit 2 was broken and conduit 4 was pulled apart at the joints. Only conduit 3 remained in service while repairs were made, but it provided enough water to avoid shortages.  The United States Geological Service and the Water Bureau operate a stream gauge on the Bull Run River 2 miles downstream from Bull Run Reservoir 2 and the water system intake. The maximum flow at this station was 24,800 cubic feet per second on December 22, 1964. By comparison, the same gauge this past week averaged 715 cubic feet per second.

While the Christmas event impacted water operations, it was actually the heavy rains later in January 1965 that caused the worst damage to the water system. A significant landslide occurred at a site along the route of the conduits at the Portland General Electric power plant along the Bull Run River. The slide damaged the county road, and conduit 2 had to be taken out of service while emergency repairs were made. There was so much water spilling over Dam 2 that the plunge pool below was torn apart by the velocity and quantity of the water.Conduit 4 broken

The US Army Corps of Engineers has established a multi-agency, flood campaign website. Watch for links to videos, debunked flood myths, economic impact information and more.

Clackamas County has produced an oral history video on the impacts to the residents in the Sandy River basin, in which the Bull Run Watershed is located.