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Portland Water Bureau

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The Proposed 2016/17 Budget: Providing Good Value to Ratepayers

By Jaymee Cuti

The Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) submitted our proposed budgets for 2016-17 on Feb. 1. Our bureaus kept our combined public utility bill increases under 5 percent.

The proposed budget came in at a combined 4.59 percent rate increase, which amounts to a $4.55 increase for a typical household per monthly bill.

Our budget reflects our priorities and we want you to know that you are getting a good value when you pay your utility bill.  

The Bull Run Watershed is the envy of the nation. We provide clean, safe, and reliable water to nearly a million people in the region.

So why increase rates? Topping the list of reasons that necessitate an increase is compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Unfunded mandates keep us in good standing with state and federal regulations to ensure that your water is always clean and safe. Next is the cost of maintaining an aging system. More than 2,000 miles of pipe deliver water throughout the Portland area. While our gravity-fed system is an engineering marvel, many of our pipes are more than 80 years old. We need to invest in our aging system.

Finally, we are committed to making our system more resilient. Portland is at risk of a major earthquake. When the “Big One” hits, we need to be prepared. That’s why the budget includes critical investments in projects that harden our conduits, fortify our facilities, and reinforce our new reservoirs. One of those projects is a new and reinforced pipe deep under the Willamette River. In our climate of heightened concern about the risks of a major earthquake, now is the time for a wise resiliency project of this magnitude.

No one likes to pay more for a vital service – we get it! The key issue for many is whether we are getting a good value in return.

As Portlanders, we enjoy the highest quality water in the nation. The Bull Run Watershed and Columbia South Shore Well Field meet or surpass all safe drinking water standards. The city delivers two gallons of water to every doorstep for about a penny—that’s a good deal.

How do our combined water, sewer and stormwater bills stack up against comparable cities? A household would pay double or more for the same services in Seattle, San Francisco or Atlanta. Another way of looking at value is to ask what would happen if we cut corners? Flint, Michigan, is a stark reminder that investing in our water system isn’t just good policy, it’s a matter of public health and safety.

The newly formed Portland Utility Board (PUB) provided oversight in our budget process. The highly regarded Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB) also served as an independent advocate for our ratepayers. Together, the PUB and the CUB are helping us craft a responsible budget and plan for the future.

Your voice matters, too. In the months ahead, there will be plenty of opportunities for hear from the families and businesses we serve. The Portland Water Bureau’s proposed budget will be posted online at: www.portlandoregon.gov/water/budget16-17

Please join us in our goal of continuing to deliver the highest quality water and customer services at a fair price, invest ratepayer dollars wisely, and protect our precious natural resources for generations to come.

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Spam Prevention In the Pacific Northwest, what state is Portland in?