Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Portland Water Bureau

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


1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

Subscribe to RSS feed

Most Recent

View More

St. Patrick’s Day and The Many Uses of Dye Tablets

Add a Comment

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many ways across the United States. From parades to dances to corned beef and cabbage, there’s one common thread that binds together any St. Paddy’s Day tradition: the color green.

Hulk-colored clothing. Chartreuse-hued cupcakes. Emerald-tinted beer. There’s never a lack of green-decorated or -dyed memorabilia to celebrate the Irish holiday, including green waterways.

Several U.S. cities get into the St. Paddy’s Day spirit by dyeing bodies of water green, something we at the Portland Water Bureau take special note off for reasons we are about to explain. To commemorate the upcoming Fix-A-Leak week, let’s take a look at a few of these cities and find out what dyeing water has to do with finding household leaks.

Chicago River dyed greenChicago

Chicago began dying the Chicago River green in 1962 after Mayor (?) Richard Daley noticed that the dye tablets used to detect leaks from plumbing gave water the perfect shade of Irish green. Since then, this tradition has grown to attract worldwide attention each year. At 9:15 a.m. on the day of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, members of the local plumbers union hop aboard several boats on the Chicago River and begin the dyeing process.


Each year on St. Patrick’s Day, the City of Tampa, Florida, dyes the Hillsboro River green with an orange powder called “Bright Dyes,” a fluorescent “dye tracing product” which is also used to detect leaks from plumbing.

The river stays a bright green for just a few hours before the tide washes out the color.

Tweet of Indianapolis Greening of the Canal eventIndianapolis

In its 21st consecutive year, Indianapolis, Indiana, dyes a portion of its downtown canal green for the annual Greening of the Canal event which features live music and celebrity appearances. The City uses 10 gallons of concentrated liquid dye which colors the water for about two to four days.

Not Just for Dyeing Rivers Green

While no waterways are dyed green in Oregon for St. Patrick’s Day, we do use dye for another purpose: to detect leaky toilets.

How does this work? So glad you asked.

Place a dye tablet – or a few drops of food coloring – in your toilet tank. If the dye color leaks into the toilet bowl, you have a leak! Fixing leaks, which can be done at home, helps you to conserve water and save money on your water bill.

You may not be able to see a green waterway in Oregon on St. Patrick’s Day, but why not start your own annual leak-detecting custom this St. Patrick’s Day knowing you’re joining a proud history of American water conservation?

Find how you can save water and money, and how to order a Water Efficiency Kit, at

Hannah Mason Pump Station to Deliver Ongoing Savings to Customers and Reduce Carbon Emissions

Add a Comment

Oversized check presented to Portland Water Bureau

Earlier today, the Energy Trust of Oregon (Energy Trust) presented the Portland Water Bureau with a check for nearly half a million dollars in front of City Council – an incentive that will benefit Portland Water Bureau customers.

This incentive was awarded to the Water Bureau’s new energy-efficient Hannah Mason Pump Station, which replaced the old 1912 Fulton Pump Station.

Photo of Hannah Mason Pump Station constructionUp to 14 million gallons of water move through this pump station every day as it pushes water uphill through Portland’s Southwest hills. Pumping water uphill is the Water Bureau’s largest single use of electricity, system-wide. Making pumping more efficient saves energy and money and reduces carbon emissions.

By combining energy-efficient pumps, an innovative pump station design, and the properties of gravity, the Portland Water Bureau is cutting annual energy costs by nearly $163,000 and also contributing to achieving goals outlined in the City of Portland’s award-winning Climate Action Plan.

“The new Hannah Mason Pump Station supports a citywide goal of reducing energy use by 2 percent,” said Portland Water Bureau Administrator Mike Stuhr. “Energy Trust’s assistance allowed the City to make a major contribution to meeting these goals with an investment that will pay for itself in only 3.3 years.”

Energy Trust Partnership

Energy Trust provided technical assistance on the project which enabled the Water Bureau to identify an estimated annual savings of 2.37 million kilowatt hours. The carbon equivalent for these savings is 610 metric tons, or approximately 1.345 million pounds, of CO2 reduction.

“We commend the Portland Water Bureau for seizing the opportunity to rethink how to efficiently deliver water to the residents of the city’s west side,” said Energy Trust Executive Director Michael Colgrove. “We’re excited to be part of this project that not only saves energy, but improves the overall quality of the pumping system while providing benefits to both water and electricity ratepayers.”

How Energy Is Saved

Map of location of new Hannah Mason Pump StationHannah Mason Pump Station receives electricity from Portland General Electric and draws water primarily from the city’s Washington County Supply Line. The old Fulton Pump Station drew water from the Southeast Supply Line. With an average hydraulic elevation approximately 125 feet higher than the old Fulton Pump Station, the Washington County Supply Line requires less pumping, enabling the Water Bureau to use three energy-efficient, 150-horsepower pumps to meet most of its pumping needs. This cuts pumping energy by approximately 45 percent, annually.

In addition, Portland Water Bureau opted to use hydraulically-operated butterfly valves for pump control which reduces the head pressure the pumps must provide, reducing energy use another 14 percent compared to more traditional diaphragm control valves.

Hannah Mason Pump Station

Hannah Mason Pump Station is the first Water Bureau infrastructure project named after a woman. A philanthropist, landowner, and widow of Portland Mayor William S. Mason, Mrs. Mason owned most of the land on which Willamette Park sits today.

Water Bureau Returns to 100 Percent Bull Run Water

Add a Comment

On March 15, the Portland Water Bureau will return to the Bull Run Watershed as its drinking water source. The decision to re-activate Bull Run was made after conferring with the bureau’s regulators at the Oregon Health Authority and in consultation with our public health partners at Multnomah County.

On Feb. 13, the Portland Water Bureau activated water from the Columbia South Shore Well Field in response to recent low detections of Cryptosporidium in the Bull Run. Using the high-quality secondary source allowed for the bureau to conduct further monitoring and investigation, and work with health officials to monitor community health data. Based on data collected and investigations conducted, the bureau continues to believe the health risk to the public from Bull Run water is low.

“Our top priority is to protect public health,” said Water Bureau Administrator Mike Stuhr. “The evidence and data collected, along with input from our partners with the Multnomah County Health Department and regulators at the Oregon Health Authority, indicates the risk remains low.”

The Multnomah County Health Department routinely monitors for illness caused by Cryptosporidium. To assure adequate reporting Multnomah County health officials issued a provider alert to local clinicians on Feb. 1, 2017, to inform them of the Water Bureau’s findings so that suspected cases would be tested. Even with this additional awareness, public health officials report there have actually been fewer than expected cases of Cryptosporidium illness reported so far in 2017.

“Our ongoing surveillance for Cryptosporidium illness has not detected any unexpected increase,” said Multnomah County and Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis. “At this time the general public does not need to take any additional precautions. As always, we recommend that people with severely compromised immune systems discuss their individual health needs with their physicians.”

The most recent detection for Cryptosporidium was from a sample collected March 8, 2017, that had one oocyst. While it is likely that low-level detections of Cryptosporidium from the Bull Run will continue, 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 Portland Water Bureau’s decision to resume delivering Bull Run water.

The bureau will continue to sample the Bull Run for Cryptosporidium and gather information about these detections. The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at The media will also be notified of any further low-level detections on a weekly basis, if they occur. The bureau will also notify the media and public immediately should further testing results indicate a risk to public health.

The Portland Water Bureau informs the media and sensitive users when there is a change in water source or significant operational changes. It may take up to two weeks, depending on location, for Bull Run water to make its way through the distribution system to homes and businesses.

Customers with questions are encouraged to call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

3 Things You Never Knew About Portland’s Groundwater

Add a Comment

Groundwater Awareness Week may be coming to a close, but there's still much to learn about Portland's secondary water source in the Columbia South Shore Well Field.

Here's a handy infographic with three facts you may not have known about Portland's groundwater. Click here for a downloadable version.

Continue learning about Portland's groundwater at

Share This Infographic

Share this post and follow the Portland Water Bureau on FacebookTwitter and Flickr.

Lead Hazard Reduction Grant Opportunity for Community Organizations in Portland

Add a Comment

The Portland Water Bureau’s award-winning Lead Hazard Reduction Program (LHRP) provides education, outreach, testing, and remediation to those at high-risk for lead exposure by working with local agencies and non-profits that are experienced in lead education.

The LHRP doesn’t just focus on hazards from lead in water but all hazards posed by lead. In Portland, the most common source of lead exposure is from lead-based paint. The program targets those most at risk for lead poisoning by providing resources to reduce lead hazards in homes, free blood lead testing, and community education and outreach regarding lead hazards.

The LHRP was developed in coordination with state and local public health agencies to comply with the federal Lead and Copper Rule.

Apply for a Lead Hazard Reduction Grant

Community organizations and governmental agencies that conduct lead hazard reduction education and outreach services in the Portland-area are encouraged to apply for a 2017-18 Portland Water Bureau Lead Hazard Reduction Program grant.

If your organization has identified a need for lead hazard reduction in your community and have ideas for addressing that need, please consider submitting an application.

The application is available online.

Application Deadline

Applications are due to the Lead Hazard Reduction Program by Friday, March 31, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.  If you have any questions, please contact the Lead Hazard Reduction Program at (503) 823-1547. 

Sarah Messier
Water Quality