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Portland Water Bureau

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GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404

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Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project

  • Washington Park Reservoirs 3 & 4 The Water Bureau supplies drinking water to more than 950,000 people in the Portland metropolitan region. A large capacity reservoir at Washington Park is an essential part of Portland’s water system, serving areas west of the Willamette River.

  • Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project In order to comply with federal and state mandates, and ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system, the Portland Water Bureau is moving forward with a project to update the Washington Park reservoir site.

  • Upper Reservoir 3 The community proposed concept for the Reservoir 3 site includes building a new below-ground reservoir in the same general footprint as the existing upper Reservoir 3, with a reflecting pool on top.This reservoir would be built east of the landslide.

  • Upper Reservoir 3 The community proposed concept for the Reservoir 3 site includes building a new below-ground reservoir in the same general footprint as the existing upper Reservoir 3, with a reflecting pool on top. This reservoir would be built east of the landslide.

  • Lower Reservoir 4 The Washington Park Reservoir Project proposes to disconnect Reservoir 4 from the public drinking water system. The community proposed concept for the Reservoir 4 site includes a lowland habitat area/bioswale & a reflecting pool in the Reservoir 4 basin.

  • Lower Reservoir 4 The Washington Park Reservoir Project proposes to disconnect Reservoir 4 from the public drinking water system. The community proposed concept for the Reservoir 4 site includes a lowland habitat area/bioswale & a reflecting pool in the Reservoir 4 basin.

  • Community Outreach & Engagement The Water Bureau is dedicated to providing members of the public with project information, progress updates, and opportunities to participate effectively in the design and planning process.

  • Land Use Review Applications This project will undergo three Land Use Review Reviews: Type IV Demolition, Type III Historic Resource, and Type III Conditional Use and Environmental reviews. Before work permits are issued or construction begins, all LUR applications must be approved.

Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project logo 

PROJECT UPDATES

JUNE 30, 2015: City Council Unanimously Approves Type IV LUR Application
On June 25, 2015, the Mayor and Portland City Council unanimously approved the Portland Water Bureau’s Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project Type IV Land Use Review (LUR) application. LEARN MORE HERE.

Click here to keep up to date on the Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project's progress.

The Portland Water Bureau supplies drinking water to more than 950,000 people and strives to provide the highest quality water to enhance the public health and safety, and contribute to the economic viability and livability of the Portland metropolitan region. The goal of the Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project is to provide increased reliability of stored drinking water at the City’s Washington Park Reservoirs and to protect the water supply.

Project Background

Reservoir 3 from the Grand Stairway: Existing Upper Reflecting Pool from the Grand Stairway: Proposed
Reservoir 3 from the Grand Stairway: Existing (left)
Upper Reflecting Pool from the Grand Stairway: Proposed (right)

Reservoir 3 with Gate House 3: Existing Upper Reflecting Pool at Gate House 3: Proposed
Reservoir 3 with Gate House 3: Existing (left)
Upper Reflecting Pool at Gate House 3: Proposed (right)

The Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project proposes to build a new below-ground reservoir in the same general footprint as the existing upper Reservoir 3, with a reflecting pool on top. This reservoir is being built east of the landslide.

 Reservoir 4 View from Dam 3: Existing Lower Reflecting Pool View from Dam 3: Proposed
Reservoir 4 View from Dam 3: Existing (left)
Lower Reflecting Pool View from Dam 3: Proposed (right)

Reservoir 4 View from Above at Sherwood Blvd: Existing Lower Reflecting Pool View from Sherwood Blvd: Proposed
Reservoir 4 View from Above at Sherwood Blvd: Existing (left)
Lower Reflecting Pool View from Sherwood Blvd: Proposed (right)

The lower Reservoir 4 basin and the slope to the west are needed to provide landslide abatement; the slope will be restored to its pre-reservoir condition. Reservoir 4 will be disconnected from the public drinking water system and a lowland habitat area/bioswale and a reflecting pool are also proposed in the Reservoir 4 basin. Work will primarily be within the Historic District.

The public will have more access to the area and aesthetic design amenities will improve the visitor experience and understanding of the site. These changes will help to:

  • Meet modern public health and safety practices and standards.
  • Meet federal and state drinking water mandates.
  • Make the water system more reliable, resilient and secure.
  • Create new facilities that can serve Portland for more than 100 years.

This project is unique because it is in a Historic District. The entire project is scheduled for completion by 2020.

Project Need

The project is needed for four (4) main reasons:

Aging Facilities
Open reservoirs were typically designed for 100 years of service. The Washington Park reservoirs are now 120 years old. Currently a synthetic rubber liner is used to keep water in Reservoir 3 due to concrete cracking in the structure.

Seismic Vulnerability
Open reservoirs were not designed to withstand earthquakes; the concrete is less than 12-inches thick and has little steel reinforcement. They would likely fail during a moderate earthquake. New buried reservoirs are designed using current earthquake engineering standards with substantial amounts of rebar and stronger concrete.

Landslide
Washington Park’s ancient landslide has been continuously damaging both reservoirs since they were originally constructed in 1893-94.

Long-Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2)
The 2006 federal regulation that requires the City of Portland to protect its stored drinking water against contamination.

Land Use Reviews

The project will undergo three Land Use Reviews (LUR) – A Type IV Demolition Review, a Type III Historic Resource Review, and a Type III Conditional Use and Environmental Review.

The initial Type IV LUR application proposes the removal of the Weir Building (screen house), portions of lower Reservoir 4’s basin, and upper Reservoir 3’s basin in Washington Park. The gatehouses, dams, and other historic features will be protected and restored.In spring 2015, the Water Bureau will submit a second LUR application package that includes the two Type III applications. The LUR package will propose the construction of a new covered reservoir, reflecting pools, lowland habitat area/bioswale, walkways, and historic preservation and rehabilitation actions.

Before work permits are issued or construction begins, all LUR applications must be approved. This includes the initial Type IV LUR application and the Type III LUR application package.

The applications are a result of a robust public involvement process that included multiple public open houses, nine (9) Community Sounding Board (CSB) meetings that guided design for the required visible features of a new reservoir in Washington Park and five (5) public hearings before the Historic Landmarks Commission. 

Learn more about the LUR Application process here.

Historic Designation

The Washington Park Reservoirs Historic District was listed on the National Historic Registry on January 15, 2004. This means that the proposed work is regulated as in a historic district under City Titles 33.445.300, 33.445.320 and 33.846.  The area for the project includes Portland Water Bureau facilities that are both inside and outside the Reservoirs Historic District.

 

Project Area

The project work will be located at 2403 SW Jefferson St. in southwest Portland. The area is roughly bounded by SW Jefferson St. near the TriMet tunnel and Madison Trail on the east, by SW Lewis and Clark Circle on the north, by SW Oxford Road on the west and by fencing in the woods within Washington Park on the southwest and south. The project area surrounds and includes the two Washington Park reservoirs and related piping, vaults and pumping facilities, and landscaping that are operated and maintained by the Portland Water Bureau.

Reservoir 3 holds approximately 16.4 million gallons of water when full and Reservoir 4 holds 17.6 million gallons. These reservoirs are an essential part of the water system serving areas west of the Willamette River in the city.  The pumping facilities on the site ensure water can reach high elevations in the west hills.

The reservoirs, dams and gatehouse were constructed in 1894, with accessory structures completed slightly later. The area is landscaped with a variety of ground covers, trees and shrubs consistent with the reservoir location within Washington Park.  Several of the operational and decorative structures and elements within the Reservoirs Historic District are considered to be “contributing structures” in the National Historic Listing. The project area in the Reservoirs Historic District is surrounded by a chain link fence (the boundary of the Reservoirs Historic District is contiguous with or is just outside this fence in most locations).

Outside the Reservoirs Historic District, the project area includes vaults and piping that are in paved areas near Portland Water Bureau facilities or along Madison Trail, and pavement and gates on Madison Trail.  Madison Trail serves as a maintenance road for the Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation, and as a bike and pedestrian path within the park. It is not a public right of way. Several public walkways and trails traverse the project area outside the Reservoirs Historic District and intersect Madison Trail.

The Arlington Heights Neighborhood is to the north and west of the project area, and Goose Hollow Neighborhood is to the east.

Public Involvement Opportunities

The project team is currently working on finalizing design and permitting for the project. As more is known and major milestones approach, the project team will continue to provide updates to key stakeholders, including Neighborhood Associations. Type III and Type IV permitting processes involve hearings that are open to the public and will allow time for public comment. Visit the Project Updates page for the latest information.

Visit the Community Involvement page for a summary of the engagement activities during the visible features design process, including Community Sounding Board meetings and public open houses. 

Additional Information

For information about this project, check out the Frequently Asked Questions or contact Lindsay Wochnick, Public Information, at 503-823-3028 or by e-mail.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation as the Portland Water Bureau works to improve the city’s century-old water system.  


Project Updates