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Portland Water Bureau

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GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404

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

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NEWS RELEASE 01/28/15: Monthly Statements Arrive for City Utility Customers

You asked, we listened! The City’s two utility bureaus, Environmental Services and Water, value excellent customer service. In response to customer requests, we are excited to offer an option to pay monthly – rather than quarterly – to the 97% of customers who are eligible.

To keep administrative costs down, the monthly statement option was initially limited to paperless (e-bill) customers when it launched in October 2013. When we heard from some customers that the e-bill requirement was a barrier, we began working to remove it. We committed to removing that requirement before 2015, and beat our deadline, launching the free and voluntary program in November 2014. As of Jan. 27, 2015, 13,122 customers are already signed up.

Monthly statements can help our customers manage their monthly budgets and better understand how City utility charges fit into their overall monthly expenses. Customers receiving monthly statements still have their meters read quarterly, but will receive a statement each month. Those customers continue to pay the same total over a three-month period as those who choose to continue with a quarterly bill, in three installments rather than one.

“This option will allow older adults who wish to pay on a monthly basis but don’t have access to electronic billing and payment the ability to do so,” said Barbara Bernstein, Interim Executive Director for Elders in Action. “Our clients have asked for this option for years.”

“Paying for sewer, stormwater, and water services monthly can help Portlanders manage their expenses right now,” said Janice Thompson, the Citizens’ Utility Board’s consumer advocate for Portland public utility customers. “This is an important option that CUB has been pushing for.”

“As Commissioner in charge of the City’s two public utilities, good customer service is one of my top priorities,” said Commissioner Nick Fish. “By expanding the monthly billing option, we are making it easier for customers to plan and budget for their water, sewer and stormwater services.”

To enroll in monthly statements, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/utilitybill. To discuss whether monthly statements are a good fit for you, call the Customer Service Center at 503-823-7770 or visit the Service Center in person at 1120 S.W. Fifth Ave., Portland OR 97204.

Monthly Statements History and Fact Sheet
History of Monthly Statements
You asked, we listened. City utility customers told us that monthly statements would help them to manage their monthly expenses, and we developed this option to meet that need. To limit administrative costs, the City introduced a monthly statement billing option for paperless (e-bill) customers in October 2013.

When we learned that the e-bill requirement was a barrier to customers who wanted to sign up for monthly statements, we worked with staff from several City departments, as well as with our billing company, to expand eligibility. We committed to making this option available before 2015, and launched the free and voluntary program in November 2014. As of Jan. 27, 2015, 13,122 customers are enrolled.

Monthly Statements vs. Monthly Billing
Monthly statements are a great option, helping households manage their monthly budgets and understand how their sewer/stormwater/water charges fit into their monthly expenses. A monthly statement is different from a monthly bill. When a household chooses monthly statements, their meter continues to be read quarterly, but charges are invoiced monthly. Monthly meter reads, which are not currently available for residential customers, also have their benefits. An automated meter reading system could give hourly data, providing households with more frequent information and allowing them to control their usage and proactively identify household leaks. But upgrading to a new meter system would be expensive – approximately $40 million. In an effort to meet our customers’ desire to pay monthly without incurring this cost, we developed this monthly statement option.

What Will This New Program Cost?
Offering this new program comes with a cost. In its first year, that cost is difficult to predict because we don’t know how many customers will choose it. The cost is associated with reaching out to households 12 times a year, compared to just four. Based on an estimate that 10% of households will choose monthly paper statements, we budgeted an additional $246,300 for printing, paper, envelopes, postage and costs associated with processing and returned mail. One way to keep these program costs down is encouraging households to consider the monthly, paperless, e-bill option.

Who is the Ideal Candidate for Monthly Statements?
The monthly statement option is ideal for customers who can pay a third of their quarterly bill each month, on time. This is especially convenient for customers who also take advantage of City’s auto-pay feature. Monthly statements may not be the right option for customers who require greater flexibility in their payment schedule. These customers are better served by quarterly billing, which allows customers to make payment arrangements and request alternate due dates that work better for them. Quarterly billing is also a better option for customers who sometimes fall behind on payments. We are happy to help you choose the right billing option to meet your needs.

Jaymee Cuti
Public Information

Kelly Butte Reservoir Construction Complete, Scheduled to Go Online Spring 2015

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January 2015 aerial photo of Kelly Butte Reservoir worksite
Early January 2015 aerial photo of Kelly Butte Reservoir worksite

On schedule and in just over two years, the Portland Water Bureau and Hoffman Construction Company crews have completed construction of the 25-million gallon underground reservoir, overflow basin, and an intricate network of underground piping, multiple vaults, and valve structures at Kelly Butte in southeast Portland.

The underground reservoir’s 394-foot by 296-foot floor, walls, 252 supporting columns, and roof were strategically poured during 2013 and 2014.

Functional testing of the new reservoir and valves will be complete within the next few months.

Backfill around reservoir
Crews backfilling around the reservoir

Crews are now working to backfill around and on top of the underground reservoir with onsite earthwork. During February and March, the reservoir and piping are scheduled to undergo disinfection.

Improving the Landscape

A year ago, crews removed non-native and invasive plants, dead and diseased trees, and unfortunately a few healthy trees to accommodate the footprint for the new underground reservoir. On the east and north side of the butte, the tree canopy that is dominated by Douglas-Fir and Big Leaf Maple trees was largely left intact. 

Within the next couple months, the Water Bureau and Hoffman Construction crews will undertake a comprehensive re-vegetation management project on the butte.

Re-vegetation plan at Kelly Butte
Re-vegetation plan at Kelly Butte

An important part of the approved land use review application, the project includes the strategic planting of more than 1,660 trees and 7,250 shrubs across the entire site.

Planting areas will be maintained so that the newly planted trees and clusters of shrubs are free to grow.

To help prevent and mitigate soil erosion, especially on the hillside slope, crews seeded ground cover plants which have already begun sprouting across the butte.

What’s Next

  • Conduct site landscaping and restoration efforts, including mitigation plantings.
  • Install permanent gates and fencing around the reservoir.
  • Develop maintenance roads, providing access to the reservoir and supporting structures.

The entire project is slated for completion by the end of 2015.

The Kelly Butte Reservoir will serve Portland's east side and be a stopover to supply water to the Washington Park reservoir and southwest Portland area water storage tanks.

For additional information on the Kelly Butte Reservoir project, visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/kellybutte.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

Raise Your Awareness & Drive Safely Through Utility Construction Work Zones

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Project in N Portland

For many public and private utility workers in Portland, their ‘office’ is actually a construction work zone on a city street. To keep these workers and others safe, the Portland Water Bureau encourages the public to drive carefully through all work areas. 

Caution in construction zones is vital for the safety of City of Portland workers as well as for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. To stay safe, the Water Bureau has these important tips: 

  • Know the work zone signs. Orange warning signs are there to help you and others move safely through roadway construction areas.
  • Obey flaggers. Flaggers are trained to move traffic safely through work zones, so pay attention to their directions and obey their instructions.
  • Obey posted speed limits. Speeding through a work zone is a major cause for accidents and injuries. Many states, including Oregon, have significantly increased fines for speeding in a work zones. Pay attention for reduced speed limits and slow down.
  • Watch other drivers and objects. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers. Watch out for sudden stops, merging traffic and other work zone dangers.
  • Stay focused and avoid distractions. Do not use cell phones or text while driving. Avoid eating and other activities which may take your focus from the road, this includes looking down to change the radio station.
  • Expect the unexpected. Stay alert for lane or road surface changes, possible mobile work zones and erratic driver and bicyclist behavior.
  • Keep your cool and be patient. Work zones are necessary to improve the roads for everyone and to meet community needs.
  • Find another way. If you know in advance that there will be construction on a street , during the construction use an alternate route to avoid traffic delays. 

Remember, everyone plays a role in maintaining a safe work zone during utility street construction.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

Water Bureau Utilizes the Off-Peak Season Effectively

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Around September of every year, the demand for water supply begins to decrease.  By the first of November, the Portland Water Bureau moves into winter demands, also known as the “off-peak” season.

This normal and expected decrease in water demand allows the Water Bureau Operations Group to take facilities out of service that typically run 24/7 in the peak demand period. The Operations Group then shifts gears into a maintenance mode to effectively utilize the off-peak period.

The Water Bureau’s off-peak period is from November 1 to March 31. This is the ideal time for Operations to perform critical maintenance on pumps, tanks, valves, and the transmission system. During this time, engineering projects are scheduled that require portions of the system to be out of service. Due to the large amount of work and short timeframe, the Operations and Engineering groups partner closely to effectively utilize this off-peak period. Members of the Operations Analysis group maintain an active spreadsheet to track all the different projects and monitor for critical scheduling conflicts. 

This year has shaped up to be a busy one for the Operations Group. There are several large capital improvement projects in construction, including the Powell Butte and Kelly Butte Reservoir projects. There is also an internal pipeline inspection of the Washington County Supply Line (WCSL), several corrective maintenance projects, and the regularly scheduled off-peak activities.

 
Left: An electrician installs a GridBee submersible mixer in the Linnton Tank in NW Portland. Right: An industrial painter cleans the reservoirs at Mt. Tabor.

One of the regularly scheduled off-peak tasks is the cleaning of tanks and reservoirs. Operation engineers and industrial painters clean the in-service open reservoirs at Mount Tabor and Washington Park a minimum of twice a year.


Industrial painters patch cracks on the interior face of the Mt. Tabor reservoirs.

All of our closed storage tanks are on a rotating five-year cleaning schedule. This off-peak period, the Water Bureau has 17 tanks scheduled for cleaning, including the 50-million gallon Powell Butte 1 reservoir.

 
Left: An operating engineer III (left) and an operating engineer trainee work to replace a ball valve at the Westwood Tank in SW Portland. Right: A team performs maintenance on a flow valve at Westwood Tank.

In addition, there are several special projects this year, including the installation of three tank mixing systems to help address water quality issues, installation of a new standby generator at Calvary Pump Station, replacement of the more than 50-year old Westwood ball valve that has reached end of life, tank leak repairs at Vermont Hills 4 and 5, various pump and motor rebuilds, and the shutdown of the WCSL for internal inspection.

Dan Allison
Water Operations

Portland Water Bureau's Customer Service Walk-In Center on Monday, January 19

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The Portland Water Bureau's Customer Service Walk-In Center will be closed on Monday, January 19 in observance of Martin Luther King Day.

The Walk-In Center, located on the first floor of the Portland Building at 1120 SW 5th Avenue, will reopen on Tuesday, January 20 at 8 a.m.

For your convenience you may pay your bill:

  • Online 
  • By Visa or MasterCard by calling our automated payment system at 503-823-7770 and pressing 1
  • Leave a payment in the night box located outside the front door at 1120 SW 5th Avenue Portland, OR 97204. 

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Customer Service