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Portland Water Bureau

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Groundwater Awareness Week: Be Informed & Help Protect a Vital Resource

During the week of March 10, 2014, the Portland Water Bureau joins the National Groundwater Association and other partners to give special recognition to one of our nation’s most valuable resources - GROUNDWATER.

Readers are encouraged to follow the Water Bureau on Twitter and Facebook for daily posts that will discuss why groundwater is important to our drinking water supply, and what you can do to be a groundwater steward and help protect this resource.

Groundwater – It’s Right Underneath Your Feet
Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or other precipitation and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand. It is a renewable natural resource when used wisely.  Of all the fresh water in the world (excluding polar ice caps), 95 percent is groundwater. Surface water (lakes and rivers) make up only three percent of the world’s fresh water.

Groundwater affects everyone. Groundwater provides drinking water for nearly half our nation’s population (including Portland and surrounding communities) and provides about 40 percent of America’s irrigation water.  It sustains streamflow between rain events and during long dry periods, and it helps maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems in streams, lakes, and wetlands.

Groundwater serves as the secondary source of Portland’s drinking water. To access the water beneath our feet, Portland has drilled 27 wells into three regional aquifers in the Columbia South Shore Well Field.  The Well Field can provide 80 to 100 million gallons of drinking water a day in emergency situations or to augment Bull Run supply in the summer. Because of this reliable backup water source, Portland is able to maintain the region’s primary drinking water supply in the Bull Run watershed as an unfiltered drinking water source.  Learn more here.

Groundwater Protection:  Do Your Part
We all play a role in preserving our vital drinking water resources. Whether you’re a resident, business owner, employee or farmer, you can make a difference. Even small amounts of chemicals spilled, leaked or dumped on the ground can find their way into our aquifers. Are you ready to join Portland Water Bureau in protecting groundwater?  Start by taking one or more of the following actions:

  • Carefully follow all instructions for the use, storage and disposal of household chemicals.
  • Check your vehicles for leaks. Leaks often go unnoticed and can contribute to groundwater contamination.
  • Avoid over-treating your garden or lawn with chemicals. Excess fertilizer and pesticides can leach into the soil and into groundwater. Consider less toxic or natural alternatives.
  • Water wisely. Avoid overwatering, especially after applying fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Landscape with native plants. Natives are adapted to our local soils and climate and require less fertilizer, pesticides and water. To learn more, visit Naturescaping for Clean Rivers at: http://emswcd.org/.
  • Never pour household chemicals or used motor oil down storm drains. These can flow directly into local streams or soak into the ground.
  • Recycle or dispose of batteries properly to keep heavy metals out of the environment.
  • Get informed. Call Metro’s Recycling Information Hotline at 503-234-3000 or visit the website.
  • Check underground storage tanks for leaks. Many older homes have underground heating oil tanks. Information on checking for leaks and decommissioning can be found here
  • Report chemical spills and illegal dumping. Call Oregon Emergency Response System at 1-800-452-0311 and Bureau of Environmental Services at 503-823-7180.
  • Clean up pet waste to keep excess nutrients and bacteria out of our waterways.

To increase your groundwater awareness, visit http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/groundwater. Help promote and protect this valuable resource.

Doug Wise
Groundwater Protection

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