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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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An Emergency Activation: The Eagle Creek Fire in the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit

On Saturday, Sept. 2, what later became known as the Eagle Creek Fire was sparked in the Columbia River Gorge. It quickly combined with the Indian Creek Fire already burning near the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit. The combined fire currently encompasses 48,831 acres (as of Sept. 28) and has burned along the northern border of the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit. Approximately 100 to 150 acres burned inside the BRWMU but not the drainage area. The Bull Run reservoirs and water supply infrastructure were not near the areas that burned.

To respond to any potential impacts of the fire on the watershed or water operations, the Water Bureau activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) the week of Sept. 4.

The EOC is where bureau staff convene to track, plan, and coordinate response efforts in an emergency. During the most recent activation to track the Eagle Creek Fire, the bureau’s GIS experts worked with bureau partners to collect data and create accurate, up-to-date maps of the fire’s perimeter in relation to the watershed.

Who is in charge of fighting the fire?

The United Command is the lead agency in fighting this fire. The Portland Water Bureau does not have a direct firefighting role. The bureau coordinates closely with the agencies in charge, which include U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s Office. The bureau supported these agencies with information, maps and gate access to support management of the fires and protection of the watershed.

Engineers and Operations team members expertly managed the water distribution system, tracking system performance and water quality. Resource Protection staff worked with partners and watershed staff – including security and other on-the-ground personnel – to coordinate efforts with partner agencies and monitor watershed health. The Communication staff, including the Public Information Officer, responded to media inquiries and collaborated with bureau staff and external partners to share accurate and timely information with the bureau, the public, and stakeholders.

Thank you to the dedicated Portland Water Bureau professionals who logged many hours during this incident, the bureau’s longest EOC activation in our history. And special recognition is deserved for the firefighters and first responders battling Oregon’s forest fires and providing relief to Oregonians displaced during the 2017 fire season.

Learn more about the Eagle Creek Fire in the Bull Run Watershed by visiting the incident updates page on InciWeb.

Using Real-World Data to Replace and Maintain Aging Water Pipes

Water main break

With cooler weather on the way, main break season is just around the corner.

“Main break season” is Water Bureau talk for when colder temperatures settle into the Portland area, sometimes causing old water pipes to crack and break.

Our maintenance and construction crews respond to an average of 200 main breaks a year and about six miles of water pipe is proactively replaced throughout the year. When field crews respond to breaks, they also collect information used by the Asset Management Branch to predict which pipes are likely to need to be replaced and when.

A Field Guide to Water Main Breaks

Water Bureau Civil Engineer Jeremiah Hess recently wrote a preview for an in-the-works visual field guide to pipe breaks. The field guide is the result of a project funded by the Water Research Foundation and includes data from Water Bureau field crews. Bureau Public Works Supervisors Beau and Dave provided break data for the visual field guide.

You can read Jeremiah’s article in the July-September 2017 edition of Advances in Water Research.

The field guide that Jeremiah previews is titled The Practical and Visual Guide to Common Pipe Failures. It will include photos and diagrams to help maintenance and construction field staff—the eyes and ears of a utility—more accurately identify main breaks and suggest causes. The guide also provides a standard set of names for types of pipe breaks. The purpose of the guide is to improve the use of field data to make better predictions about the water system. 

How We Care for Portland’s Water System

Portland’s water system is a network of reservoirs, pipes, pumps, tanks, valves, meters, and other equipment—each of these assets has its own life span and way of wearing out or failing.

The Water Bureau asset management team oversees finding the most cost-effective and efficient way to manage the Water Bureau’s assets, through maintenance, repair, and replacement. Learn more about our asset management program and how our crews respond water main breaks.

Cryptosporidium Detected In Bull Run Drinking Water; Monitoring Continues

Quote - Dr. Paul LewisThe Portland Water Bureau received results today from a water sample collected on Sept. 24 that was positive for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. The sample had one oocyst ofCryptosporidium detected in a 10-liter sample.

At this time, the bureau and public health partners at Multnomah County continue to believe Bull Run water is safe to drink.

To reduce the risk of the public’s exposure to Cryptosporidium, the bureau continues to monitor forCryptosporidium, protect the watershed, notify the public, and work with its health partners to make the best decisions for public health.


The Portland Water Bureau has monitored for Cryptosporidium under conditions of a variance for the treatment ofCryptosporidium issued by its regulators at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). As a result of the detections earlier this year, the Oregon Health Authority informed the Portland Water Bureau that the variance from treating for Cryptosporidium would be revoked no later than Nov. 22, 2017. On Aug. 2, City Council directed the bureau to construct a water filtration plant to meet the Cryptosporidium treatment requirements. The Portland Water Bureau will submit a schedule for construction of a filtration plant and ongoing measures to continue to protect public health to OHA by Oct. 11.

Learn more about the Cryptosporidium detections earlier this year. You can also view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at

As always, the bureau recommends that people with severely weakened immune systems seek specific advice from their health care providers about drinking water. There is no need for the general public to take additional precautions.

Bull Run Water Remains Safe to Drink

Current evidence from public health data, monitoring results, and watershed investigations, as well as extensive consultation with public health officials, have provided confidence in the continued safety of the Bull Run water.

“We continually monitor for human illness caused by Cryptosporidium but since past detections of Cryptosporidium oocysts in Bull Run water have not been associated with an increase in human disease, I do not expect it to be different this time,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis.

Next Steps

The bureau will continue to sample the Bull Run for Cryptosporidium; gather information about these detections; and notify its regulators, health officials, and the public of any additional detections.

You can refer to Frequently Asked Questions to find answers to questions about Cryptosporidium and treatment.

Tour the Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project

Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project Tour

The Portland Water Bureau will be conducting two public tours, on site, of the Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project. This is your opportunity to learn about construction methods, future activities, schedule, and much more. Tours will be led by the project manager and principal engineer.

The Portland Water Bureau is rebuilding the Washington Park reservoirs, a project that continues through 2024.  Washington Park reservoirs were originally built in 1894. When completed, this project will supply water to Portland’s west side and serve more than 360,000 people, including all downtown businesses and residents, 20 schools, five hospital complexes, and more than 60 parks. This system of water conveyance and storage makes Portland a livable, and thriving community, ensuring public health and economic viability.  

Tour Information

Tours will be conducted Saturday, October 7, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. There is room for 20 people per tour. Each person must register separately to attend a tour. Slots will fill quickly, so register now!

Come prepared for the day. Participants will be touring an active construction site and should be prepared to navigate stairs, elevation changes, rough surfaces, etc. Be sure to wear closed-toed boots or sturdy shoes and weather appropriate clothing. Safety vests, hardhats and safety glasses which will be provided.


Contact Rhetta Drennan at 503-823-3028 or

Success on the Spillway: Repairing the Dam 2 Spillway

Industrial painters on dam spillway

The Water Bureau industrial painting crew knows how to hustle.

A three-person team, the Water Bureau industrial painters are responsible for cleaning, painting, and maintaining a variety of critical Water Bureau infrastructure: water tanks, offline reservoirs, and dams and spillways inside the Bull Run Watershed. Basically, anything that sits above ground or in a vault and delivers water will get a visit from our industrial painting crew.

Painters paint spillway

The Water Bureau painters’ most recent challenge was washing, repairing, and re-caulking the Dam 2 spillway. The Dam 2 spillway carries overflow water from Dam 2 downstream to the Bull Run River. Last year, the Water Bureau Operations workgroup developed a three-year plan to replace and repair the caulking that holds together the large concrete slabs that make up the spillway.

Then, early this year, the Oroville Dam incident occurred.

This well-reported incident prompted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency responsible for overseeing the safety of our country’s dams, to increase inspection schedules for several spillways across the country, including the Water Bureau’s own Dam 2 spillway. After working alongside FERC officials to assess the repair plan, it was decided that—in light of the Oroville Dam incident, and due to the age of the Dam 2 spillway—the bureau would accelerate spillway re-caulking before the rainy winter months.

Spillway repairs

This schedule adjustment meant that the entire spillway would have to be washed, repaired, and re-caulked within one year, as opposed to the original three-year schedule.

Cue the scramble. Our industrial painters hustled throughout the summer, working through hot weather on even hotter concrete, with some days reaching more than 105 degrees.

The work involved pressure washing the spillway, removing the old caulking material, installing new foam backing to prevent caulk seepage, and caulking along the seam of the entire Dam 2 spillway.

The painting crew’s hustle paid off. They finished the repair work within two months. One full year ahead of schedule.


*drops paintbrush*