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The City of Portland, Oregon

Audit Services

Audits City bureaus and programs for efficiency, effectiveness and equity

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 310, Portland, OR 97204

Public Utilities

Browse our audit reports about public utilities. This includes environmental services, wastewater, sewer, water, and hydroelectric power.

Groundwater: City identified risks, must develop a long-term plan to address them

The Portland Water Bureau identified and analyzed risks to groundwater and has a collaborative approach to managing this water source, which gets less attention than Bull Run. Used as the City’s secondary system, it faces risks such as climate change, aging infrastructure, and uncertainty about how much water the system can provide. The audit recommends that the Bureau develop a comprehensive strategy to prioritize the system’s needs and formalize decision-making roles.

Report  |  June 2020

Restoration Projects and Green Streets: Planning and evaluation needed to confirm success

Portland residents rely on Bureau of Environmental Services restoration projects and green streets to improve water quality, restore wildlife habitat, and prevent flooding. However, without formal methods to select projects and document outcomes, the City risks not meeting those goals. We found that the Bureau did not have a system in place to ensure that restoration projects and green streets were placed in the highest-needs areas. We also found that the Bureau did not consistently report outcomes for restoration projects or provide reports to ratepayers and regulators about green street condition. We recommended more formal planning, evaluation, and reporting.


Highlights  |  Report  |  December 2018

Follow-Up Report  |  December 2020

Private Stormwater Management: City reliance on property owners requires review of risks and results

The Bureau of Environmental Services requires that some property owners manage water run-off from roofs and pavements to prevent pollution in local streams, flooding and erosion, and sewer overflows. We found that data about private stormwater management were not adequate for system planning. In addition, the Bureau did not evaluate whether programs met goals for volume of stormwater managed or for rate fairness. The Bureau could not demonstrate that benefits of private stormwater management exceeded costs imposed on the private sector and did not adjust program elements to optimize efficiency. The audit recommends data management improvements and program evaluations.

Highlights  |  Report  |  July 2018

Follow-Up Report  |  September 2019

Two Year Follow-Up Report  | October 2020

Utility Payment Assistance: Program improvements would enable City to assist more customers

The Water Bureau has not used customer data to design their payment assistance program. Without data, it is unable to identify disparities, tailor assistance to meet customer needs, focus outreach or measure the impact of assistance. Payment assistance is not available to residents of multifamily housing since most residents of multifamily pay for their water, sewer and stormwater as part of their rent rather than directly to the Water Bureau. We recommend the Water Bureau strengthen payment assistance by collecting and using customer data and improving outreach and training.

Highlights  |  Report  |  October 2017

B.E.S. Columbia Building: Scope additions and ineffective design oversight led to substantially higher project costs

In 2014, the Bureau of Environmental Services completed a new office building at the City’s wastewater treatment plant for $11.5 million. The building cost ratepayers three times the original amount budgeted. This audit reviews why the costs increased and recommends improvements to prevent future capital project cost overruns of this magnitude.

Report  |  October 2014  

Organic Waste: Program improvements would enable City to assist more customers

The Solid Waste Program has increased recycling, but further efforts are required to reach its goal of reducing overall waste generation. Waste sent to landfills has been reduced in the residential sector. However, the commercial sector generates the vast majority of organic waste, and much of it ends up in landfills. We recommend BPS increase the food waste participation rate for the commercial sector, including multifamily housing units, and identify incentives to divert organic waste from landfills.

Report  |  April 2014   

Further audits about public safety 

Residential Solid Waste: Customer rates accurate, but monitoring should continue (Report 429) - 6/20/12

SUMMARY: Portland Water Bureau asset management audit (Report 405) - 6/7/12

Portland Water Bureau: Further advances in asset management would benefit ratepayers (Report 405) - 6/7/12

Spending utility ratepayer money: Not always linked to services, decision process inconsistent (Report 398) - 3/30/11