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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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Portland Water Crews Always Prepared for Winter Weather

Portland Water maintenance crews have a knack for predicting main breaks.

But it’s not art, it’s science, they explain.

Due to rapid changes in water and soil temperatures during the winter, older cast iron pipes—many working without fail for decades and changing conditions—can become stressed.

And early in 2017, the Portland Water Bureau’s maintenance and construction crews tackled a 13-day stint that broke records by repairing 92 main breaks in less than two weeks. For context, that’s nearly half of the breaks during an average year.

It was a chilly January morning two years ago when Portland Water staff and leadership took stock of how the city’s large water pipes—or mains—were responding to the weather as they carried water from Bull Run to an intricate system of pipes throughout the city. Water temperature had dipped to 39 degrees—often a predictor of increased breaks—so crews and staff were prepared when phones started ringing, launching two weeks of around-the-clock activity.  

Which is why this time of year is dubbed Main Break Season. Maintenance and construction crews are called out at all hours, on holidays and weekends, in sleet and snow, to repair broken water mains as they happen. Crews repair nearly 200 main breaks each year, which is relatively low compared to other cities of comparable size because Portland’s soil types help keep pipes from corroding.

“When most of the city is at home, the Water Bureau shows up. Maintenance crews push through very challenging weather and road conditions to make sure our customers can count on their water supply,” said Ty Kovatch, the Water Bureau’s director of construction and maintenance. “We take great pride in our work maintaining the water system and representing the bureau and the City.”

Ready to Respond 24/7

This readiness means that sometimes crew members are home with their families or friends, having dinner or sleeping when the call comes in to report to work. The moments between getting the call and arriving on site can be stressful until they have assessed the scene.

But crews, even in waist deep freezing water and mud, approach each day as an adventure, knowing that they’re keeping water flowing to Portland homes.

“With any main break season, it’s always an adventure,” said Beau Brown, “You’re always waiting for that next call and at the ready to fix the situation.”

And the hard, cold work doesn’t go unnoticed.

One customer in Southwest Portland sent our crews a note: “Good on these city workers! Providing clean and safe drinking water to our taps! Thank you for your sacrifices. You could be warm and cozy with your loved ones right now. Instead, you’re working to deliver us water!”

Factors beyond weather can also contribute to breaks. Soil type and construction activity near to our pipes can cause them to shift, for example. Despite the increase in main breaks that occur during the winter season, crews are typically able to respond and repair most breaks within hours of being notified, or sooner.

“Just being part of the team, getting out there and getting dirty and wet, and being able to respond to a variety of emergencies for the community we serve is what makes this job worth it,” said Danielle Marcial.

Prevent Cold-Weather Home Plumbing Problems

During periods of sustained freezing temperatures, residents may also experience frozen pipes in their homes that can cause problems. To prevent this, insulated faucet covers should be installed over all outdoor faucets. When sustained freezing temperatures hit, customers should leave a trickle of water running in one of their indoor faucets to keep water moving, and open cabinet doors where plumbing is located to allow air from the house to help keep pipes warmer, preventing larger plumbing issues from emerging.

While crews are working in neighborhoods throughout Portland, we also ask that you be our eyes and ears. If you think a main is broken in your neighborhood, please call the Water Bureau’s 24-hour emergency line at 503-823-4874. For more information about preparing for winter weather, visit

Benson Bubblers Will Be Shut Off Today, Feb. 5, for Cold Weather

Portland Water crews will begin turning off the city's Benson Bubbler drinking fountains today because of the predicted cold and wind. When the two elements combine, they can create a hazardous icy patch around the bubblers.

Three Bubblers will be left on for use by those depending on them as a drinking water source.

  • One at NW 6th Ave. and W. Burnside St.
  • One at Tom McCall Waterfront Park near the west end of the Steel Bridge
  • One under the Burnside Bridge on the eastbound MAX platform

To see a map of bubbler locations, visit

It typically takes four crews approximately six hours to shut off the bubblers by hand. With less staff available today we will be phasing the shutoff with the goal of having all bubblers (except for three) shut off by end of day Thursday.

With low temperatures in the forecast, the current plan is to leave the bubblers off through February.

Report Cold Weather Water Emergencies

Main breaks, service leaks, and frozen water meters can also occur because of cold weather. If you observe running water in the street, believe you are not receiving water from your meter, or experience an urgent water problem, please contact the Portland Water Bureau's 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 503‐823‐4874.

More Information

For more information on the Benson Bubblers, visit

Feb. 8, 2019: Cryptosporidium Monitoring Update

The Portland Water Bureau received results from ongoing monitoring from the Bull Run Watershed intake for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. In the 50-liters sampled daily, between Sunday, Feb. 3 and Wednesday, Feb 6, two Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected. One oocyst was detected in the sample collected on Feb. 3 and one oocyst was detected in the sample collected on Feb. 5. Cryptosporidium was not detected in the samples collected on Feb. 4, or Feb. 6. Prior to these detections, Cryptosporidium was last detected from the Bull Run Watershed intake in a sample collected on Jan. 30.

The Bull Run watershed is Portland’s primary source of drinking water. The Portland Water Bureau does not currently treat for Cryptosporidium, but is required to do so under drinking water regulations. Portland is working to install filtration by September 2027 under a compliance schedule with Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, Portland Water Bureau is implementing interim measures such as watershed protection and additional monitoring to protect public health. Consultation with public health officials has concluded that at this time, customers do not need to take any additional precautions.

About Cryptosporidium

Exposure to Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a serious illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain. People with healthy immune systems recover without medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with severely weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system; and cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that a small percentage of the population could experience gastro-intestinal illness from Cryptosporidium and advises that customers who are immunocompromised and receive their drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed consult with their healthcare professional about the safety of drinking the tap water. The Portland Water Bureau and Burlington, City of Gresham, City of Sandy, City of Tualatin, Green Valley, GNR, Hideaway Hills, Lake Grove, Lorna Portland Water, Lusted, Palatine Hill, Pleasant Home, Raleigh, Rockwood, Skyview Acres, Tualatin Valley, Two Rivers, Valley View and West Slope Water Districts receive all or part of their drinking water supply from the Bull Run. To learn if your drinking water comes from Bull Run, please contact your local drinking water provider.

More Information

The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at The bureau will notify the media and public immediately should further test results indicate a risk to public health and precautions are necessary.

Customers with questions regarding water quality can call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

Portland Water Offices Closed Monday, Feb. 18 for the Presidents' Day Holiday

Portland Water Bureau logoIn observance of the Presidents' Day holiday, Portland Water offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 18.

Offices will reopen on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 8 a.m. The Customer Service Call Center will reopen at 8 a.m. The Customer Service Walk In Center will reopen at 7:30 a.m.

How to Pay Your Utility Bill

During the holiday, Water Bureau customers can pay their bill in the following ways:

  • Online: Click here
  • Phone: Pay by phone by dialing 503-823-7770 and pressing 1
  • Drop off: Leave a payment in the Water Bureau's drop box located at 111 SW Columbia St. (at the corner of SW 1st Ave. and SW Columbia St).

Water Emergency Hotline

To report a water system emergency, contact the 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 503-823-4874.

Join Our Team: Employment Opportunities at Portland Water

Portland Water Bureau logoIf you're interested in joining an award-winning public utility where employees thrive on the pride of delivering a life-essential product with world class customer service, the Portland Water Bureau might be just the place for you.

The Water Bureau is a recognized leader in the utility industry. We've achieved this success by investing in the very best people and empowering them to find new and better ways to meet our customer's needs.

The Water Bureau currently employs approximately 560 people. All current job postings with the City of Portland are posted online, and updated weekly. We are an equal opportunity employer that values diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Current Opportunities at the Water Bureau

Position   Employment Type   Salary   Closing Date/Time Join Our Team 
Applications Analyst III - Generalist Full Time $35.62–$47.55 Hourly Fri.3/1/2019 11:59 PM Pacific Apply here!
Risk Specialist I Full Time $4,440.00–$8,233.00 Monthly Fri. 3/1/2019 11:59 PM Pacific Apply here!
Water Resources Education Intern Casual $15.00 Hourly Thurs. 2/28/2019 5:00 PM Pacific Apply here!

Learn More About the Water Bureau


For more information regarding career opportunities at the Water Bureau, contact (503) 823-3515 or e-mail.