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Portland Water Bureau

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Portland Water Bureau's FY 2016-17 Budget Work Session Tomorrow

By Jaymee Cuti

As the steward of the city’s 120-year old water system, the Portland Water Bureau developed and recommended to the Portland City Council and our customers a budget that allows it to continue to meet its mission of providing clean and safe drinking water to all of its users.

The Portland Water Bureau will present its FY 2016-17 Requested Budget to Council in a work session from 1 to 2 p.m. on March 29 at Portland City Hall Council Chambers, 1220 S.W. Fourth Ave. The public is invited to observe the work session. The requested budget was submitted in February.

The FY 2016-17 Requested Budget was submitted with the Bureau of Environmental Services for a combined utility bill increase of under 5 percent. This amounts to a $4.55 increase for a typical household per month.

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

We provide clean, safe, and reliable water to nearly a million people in the region.

So why increase rates? Topping the list is compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. We keep 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 the Washington Park Improvement Project, which brings 120 year-old reservoirs up to modern seismic standards. In our climate of heightened concern about the risks of a major earthquake, now is the time for a wise resilience 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.

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 Portland Utility Board (PUB) served as the bureau’s Budget Advisory Committee (BAC). This group is comprised of representatives of key stakeholders that included members of the community and labor representatives. The BAC and representatives of the Citizens‘ Utility Board (CUB) reviewed and provided comments on our requested budget.

Your voice matters, too. There are still opportunities to hear from the families and businesses we serve. The Portland Water Bureau’s requested budget and a calendar of public events are posted online here, www.portlandoregon.gov/water/budget16-17

Please support 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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