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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

Customer Service: 503-823-7770


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

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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:

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.

Reminder to Our Customers: Water Pipe Insurance Policies not Affiliated with Portland Water Bureau

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Private home insurance companies are again conducting sales mailings offering water service line insurance in Portland.

The Portland Water Bureau wants to remind our customers that such offers are not associated with the City of Portland, nor does the Portland Water Bureau have any connection with such companies, or any other such insurance carrier. 

These private companies send letters to Portland residents offering a repair plan for the water service line extending from the resident’s house to the water distribution pipeline, which usually runs from the water meter in front of the house.

These letters state that the line extending from the house to the water meter is the homeowner’s responsibility. This means that if the pipeline experiences a crack or break, the resident is responsible for all associated costs.

While this is in fact true, some sales literature from such insurance companies has confused some residents, making them feel that they are required to have an insurance policy that is separate from their homeowner’s policy to cover any water utility line damage. This is not true.

Here are the facts that you need to know:

  • There are no laws that require you to insure the water line.

  • It is completely up to you to decide whether you want or need this type of coverage, and through which company you want to buy such a policy.

  • If you receive a phone call from a sales person employed by a private company and they introduce themselves as having a relationship with the “water department,” this is false information. The Water Bureau is a public utility, and does not contract/affiliate with any insurance providers.

Before signing an annual insurance plan that protects your water service line, the Water Bureau urges caution. Some plans may be legitimate offers, but make sure to examine the fine print. For example, letters received by customers in 2012 noted, in small print, that the private companies’ insurance plan will not pay for residential plumbing services if the water line fails due to “acts of God,” frozen pipes, faulty construction or maintenance, or “normal wear and tear.”

If you are interested in water service line insurance, the Water Bureau encourages you to consider the following information:

  • Review your homeowner's policy and determine if water line coverage is already provided. If you do have water line coverage, make sure to contact your insurance company and ask how this coverage would work in conjunction with an annual insurance plan.

  • Determine if you have prior issues with your water line pipes or if there have been any issues in your neighborhood. This will help you in deciding the necessity of purchasing an annual insurance plan.

  • Compare several private insurance policies to make sure you find the policy the best suits your needs.

  • Read the fine print in the annual insurance plan carefully.

  • Check the company standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Business Review and see their rating and any past government actions or advertising concerns BBB has found.

If you are ever suspicious of anything related to your water service, please call the Water Bureau Customer Service hotline at 503-823-7770.

Experience Bull Run

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A Student Art Exhibit at City Hall

Fourth-graders from Boise-Eliot/Humboldt School and their art teacher are addressing Portland City Council at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, in City Hall Council Chambers, followed by a reception. These young artists are bringing to Council their personal impressions from inside the protected Bull Run Watershed.

This fall, these students had a unique field trip to the watershed that focused on water and art. The Portland Water Bureau guides hundreds of students through the Bull Run each year to study water science and engineering. The Boise-Eliot/Humboldt field trips added a special mission: visit Bull Run and bring the experience back to Portland through art.

The special tour was designed for these students to experience the watershed through their five senses – even taste. Students took a silent walk through the forest; recorded sound from inside a dam; practiced photo yoga; and tasted an oxalis plant. Upon returning to school, they created the artwork on display in the City Hall atrium.

“The grass is green. The river looks beautiful with the trees. It’s very amazing because I don’t usually get to be in places like this,” said Mahogany, a Boise-Eliot/Humboldt fourth-grader. “I can’t wait to go home and tell my mom about what I saw.”

You can experience Bull Run by visiting the student art exhibit in the City Hall atrium in February or by signing up for a guided Bull Run tour (offered on a limited basis July-September,

Bull Run Art Exhibit • Feb.  3 – 25 Portland City Hall, 1221 SW Fourth Ave., Portland Atrium art exhibit open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. To learn more about the Bull Run Art Exhibit, visit

Annual Wildlife Survey at Powell Butte Nature Park: Be Cautious of Survey Markers

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Powell Butte Nature Park in southeast Portland offers a home to an abundant wildlife population, including rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, gray foxes, weasels skunks, bats, Bobcats,  coyotes, black-tailed mule deer, and many different species of birds.

Maintaining and continuously improving habitat for birds and other wildlife within the nature park while making trails easily accessible to park users is of key importance for the Portland Parks & Recreation and the Portland Water Bureau.

Pre-placed survey markersOne way park wildlife is researched and monitored in the nature park is through field surveys. During field visits, volunteers trained by Portland Parks & Recreation collect information. Markers help direct volunteers where to stand, observe, and count wildlife for the survey. The markers are located throughout the park, in the meadows, forested areas, and close to trail edges. Please don't disturb any markers.

Reminder to Be Safe
Wildlife and other data is collected throughout the year. Users are required to stay on the designated trail system for their safety and equine trail riders and mountain bikers must ride single file to be safe and to avoid damaging delicate trail edges.

The Portland Water Bureau and Parks & Recreation appreciate the public’s help in preserving and protecting the nature parks and all its inhabitants.

Water Bureau Begins Month-Long Project to Install Drains in Electrical Vaults at Powell Butte Nature Park

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Starting the week of Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, the Portland Water Bureau will begin installing new drains in 14 electrical vaults located in the Powell Butte Nature Park.

Electrical vaultThe project is scheduled for completion by early March 2016, weather permitting.

The electrical vaults are located underground in the park and house utility equipment, including conduits and wires. Drains will be situated in the bottom of each vault to remove water that accumulates. This improvement will provide the vaults a more effective drainage system. 

Quick Facts

  • Powell Butte Nature Park will remain open during the project.
  • Work won’t affect the Park’s main parking lot, trails, Visitor’s Center, or bathrooms.
  • Crews are approved to work Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and some weekends if needed.
  • Park users may notice increased noise levels due to equipment use.
  • Park users are encouraged to use caution around areas of work.

For additional information or questions regarding the project, contact Lindsay Wochnick, Water Bureau Public Information, at 503-823-3028 or by e-mail.