GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404
1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204
The Portland Water Bureau’s Maintenance & Construction crews are ready to respond to emergencies, including water main breaks, 24-hours a day, and seven days a week. On average, crews respond to 200 main breaks a year.
A main break occurs when the water main develops a crack or a hole that lets water out into the surrounding soil. On the surface, main breaks can look like leaks bubbling up out of the street, and, in extreme cases, the water can cause sink holes and flooding.
In Portland, cast iron water mains tend to break during the colder times of the year. Of the 2,100 miles of water pipe in the city’s network, approximately 1,350 miles are cast iron pipe. The majority of these cast iron pipes were installed before 1960 and remain in the water system.
Cold water can cause pipes to become more brittle. Adding cold air temperatures at or below freezing can cause the ground above a pipe to freeze and thaw, thereby increasing external stress on a pipe. Temperatures can be just one factor in causing a main break. The age of a pipe, soil conditions, pipe corrosion, and ground movement can also cause a main to weaken over time and break.
Every main break situation is different. The Water Bureau’s response will vary based on the specific situation. However, this is a general sequence of events that happen to fix a main break.
A simple water main repair can be completed in six to eight hours, but large or complicated repairs may take several days to a week.
During a main break, customers in the immediate vicinity may notice a reduction in water pressure or have their water temporarily shut off while repairs are being made. Customers may also experience discolored water. This color is from sediments that are always in our pipes and can get stirred up during a main break. The discoloration does not pose a health risk. However, avoid using tap water or running the washing machine or dishwasher until flushing is complete.
After work is complete on the main break, if you have experienced discoloration in your water, run the water at one tap for five (5) minutes to see if it clears. If it does not clear, wait an hour and try again. When the water runs clear, flush any taps where discolored water was present.
Anyone observing water running from streets or sidewalks is encouraged to report the leak to the Water Bureau. Please call the Water Bureau’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874 for water system emergencies, including suspected main breaks.
If customers experience ongoing water quality problems or lost water service with no notification, call the Water Line at 503-823-7525, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. After hours, contact the 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874.
Rain, ice and snow can play havoc with water pipes. Below are tips for protecting your home’s plumbing this winter:
WHAT IF PIPES FREEZE?
WHAT IF PIPES BREAK?
The Water Bureau reminds customers that the best way to handle any sort of water emergency in your home including broken pipes is to be prepared before it happens. Taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the plumbing system in your home and note the location of all shut off valves are important steps in preventing a plumbing emergency from turning into a disaster.
Customers that experience urgent water problems should call the Portland Water Bureau’s 24/7 emergency hotline at 503-823-4874.
Groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field (CSSWF) is an important part of the drinking water supply for Portland and the metro region. Groundwater helps meet higher summer water demands and provides drinking water during emergencies or when Portland’s primary water source, the Bull Run watershed, is not available. The well field also makes Portland’s water system resilient in the face of drought and climate uncertainty.
To keep the groundwater from Portland’s production wells clean, the Portland Water Bureau partners with the cities of Fairview and Gresham to implement a Groundwater Protection Program throughout the CSSWF. The CSSWF Wellhead Protection Area Reference Manual lays out the pollution prevention requirements that apply to hazardous materials management in the well field. The manual was last updated in 2010 and is due for some minor upkeep. The biggest changes concern the annual reporting process for regulated businesses.
Submit Your Comments
The updated manual, a summary of the proposed changes, and information on how to submit comments can be found on the City website at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/article/618492. Public comments on the manual revisions will be accepted until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 4, 2017.
Learn more about the Groundwater Protection Program here.
UPDATE -- Dec. 12, 2016
With another forecast of wind and freezing temperatures, the Benson Bubblers will remain turned off until further notice.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Portland Water Bureau will begin a shut-off of the city's Benson Bubbler drinking fountains because of predicted cold temperatures, which can cause safety hazards on sidewalks for pedestrians. Bubblers are turned off by hand.
A few bubblers will be will be kept on – including one at Fifth Avenue and West Burnside Street, one on the waterfront near the west end of the Steel Bridge and one under the Burnside Bridge – to provide water to those who rely on them as their primary water source.
Once temperatures warm up, all of the iconic bubblers will be turned back on.
Main breaks, service leaks and frozen water meters can also occur as a result 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.
For more information on the Benson Bubblers, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/water/bensonbubblers.
Each quarter, the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Portland Water Bureau offer important information on rebates, payment options, drinking water quality, and water efficiency tips in printed inserts that accompany your sewer-stormwater-water bill.
In the Winter 2017 statement, customers will find a newsletter highlighting tips for how to prepare your home for winter weather, what to do if you see a water main break and how to enroll in auto bill payment.
Take a look inside your bill or access the Customer Newsletter online.