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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Sept. 15 Update on the Eagle Creek Fire and the Bull Run Watershed

The Eagle Creek Fire is 28 percent contained. All suppression efforts are focused on protecting communities, infrastructure, and other values at risk. Protecting the Bull Run remains a top priority of the fire response.

Based on available data from the U.S. Forest Service, the Portland Water Bureau will continue to update the fire perimeter map at as it becomes available. Based on new infrared imagery data from Sept. 15, the fire has burned approximately 100 to 150 acres inside the Bull Run Management Unit, but not inside the actual Bull Run watershed. The Bull Run reservoirs and water supply infrastructure are not near the areas that are currently estimated to have been burned. Please check this link periodically for updated maps on the fire perimeter in relation to the Bull Run watershed.

According to current estimates, less than 1 percent of the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit has been burned at the northern boundary.

The fire will continue to burn along the northern edge of the management unit until significant wet weather arrives, possibly beginning on Sunday. Weather is expected to remain cooler with light winds. Friday evening and Saturday may bring lower relative humidity and a shift to light northeast winds. Significant precipitation is still forecast for Sunday night and early next week.

Yesterday, aircraft dropped nearly 100,000 gallons of water on the fire. Crews will be constructing direct hand line and helicopter bucket drops may be used to cool hotspots in the northwestern edge of the management unit. No retardant has been used in the Bull Run watershed

The Water Bureau continues delivering 100 percent Bull Run water and monitoring indicates that water remains safe to drink.

Unless there are significant changes this weekend, you can expect the next update to come on Monday, Sept. 18. 

Sept. 18 Update on the Eagle Creek Fire and the Bull Run Watershed

Eagle Creek Fire Updates Sept 18th

The Eagle Creek Fire is 32 percent contained. Because of very favorable conditions over the weekend, which are anticipated to continue this week, staff at the Water Bureau Emergency Operation Center is standing down.

Cloud cover prevented the gathering of infrared imagery data today. According to data from Sunday, Sept. 17, the fire burned approximately 150 acres inside the Bull Run Management Unit, but not inside the Bull Run drainage area. Current estimates are that less than one percent of the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit has been burned at the northern boundary. The Bull Run reservoirs and water supply infrastructure are not near the areas that are currently estimated to have been burned.

Helicopters continued doing bucket drops of water on Sunday in the far northeast and northwest corners of the management unit, near Oneonta and Bell creeks. Southeasterly changing to southwesterly winds aided firefighting efforts by moving the fire away from the watershed on Sunday. Quite a bit of rain has fallen over the fire since yesterday. 

Showers, heavy at times, are predicted Monday and Tuesday, with another significant front moving over the fire Wednesday. Anticipated heavy rains may cause challenges for those working and living in communities along Columbia River Gorge and Interstate 84 as they recover from the fire.

Throughout this operation, the Water Bureau delivered 100 percent Bull Run water with one brief interruption related to a treatment chemical delivery delay. The bureau continued with its regular drinking water quality monitoring of the Bull Run and did not find any measurable differences since the fire started.

There will be ongoing work by the federal firefighting agencies in and around the watershed over the next few weeks to ensure the fire danger has passed and that fire suppression areas are prepared for winter rains. The Water Bureau will continue to coordinate with its federal partners on access and demobilization activities in the northern portions of the management unit as needed.

On behalf of the bureau, we wish to recognize the heroic efforts of the Type I Incident Management Team that capably managed this fire during its critical phases. We are grateful to our local partners from the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s Office, for their work in fighting the fire.

The Portland Water Bureau thanks its stakeholders for their flexibility and support as we addressed this rapidly changing event over the last two weeks.

Portland Water Bureau security and resource liaison staff deserve a heartfelt congratulations for providing vital information and access to fire fighters who defended our watershed and key infrastructure.

The Water Bureau does not anticipate frequent updates related to the Eagle Creek Fire.

The Water Blog, along with Facebook and Twitter, will be made available should there be new information in the future.

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.