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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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

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St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow and it's 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

Join our Team: Strategic Communications Manager and Water Treatment Operator II

Work at the Water BureauIf 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   Emp. Type   Salary   Closing Date/Time Join Our Team 
Strategic Communications Manager Full Time $7,061.00–$9,406.00 Monthly Mon. 4/2/2018 11:59 PM Pacific Apply here!
Water Treatment Operator II Full Time $28.24–$36.50 Hourly Mon. 4/9/2018 11:59 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.

Discolored Water in Cully Area Due to Firefighting Activity

Discolored water has been reported in the Cully neighborhood and surrounding area.

This discoloration is due to fire response at NE 75th Ave. and NE Killingsworth St., which has inadvertently stirred a harmless sediment. The discolored water should clear up a few hours but is dependent on the fire activity. If needed, Water Bureau crews may be dispatched to flush the water mains in the area to help resolve the issue.

What to do When You See Discolored Water

When water appears discolored, we recommend customers limit hot water use and avoid washing light-colored laundry. To monitor water clarity in your home or business, check one faucet every hour by running the water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Once the water appears clear or lighter, you can flush any faucets where discolored water was present.

If you have specific questions or concerns about water quality, please contact the Water Quality Line at 503-823-7525 or during regular business hours.

To report a water emergency after 4:30 p.m., call the Water Bureau 24-Hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874 ext. 1.

Portland Water Bureau to Begin Annual Groundwater Maintenance Run

Groundwater reservoirStarting today, March 12, the Portland Water Bureau will begin blending a small portion of water from its Columbia South Shore Well Field with water from the Bull Run Watershed as an annual maintenance operation.

Public notification is not required but the Portland Water Bureau informs the media and sensitive water users, as a practice, when it activates groundwater and when it has significant operational changes. The groundwater maintenance run is expected to be completed by March 21, when the Portland Water Bureau anticipates returning to 100 percent Bull Run water.

As a result of careful planning, Portland is fortunate to have access to two excellent water sources that allow us to be prepared to meet the range of supply and demand conditions that occur in the Portland water system.

The Columbia South Shore Well Field is a high-quality water supply that meets or surpasses all federal and state drinking water regulations.

About Portland's Groundwater Supply

Groundwater aquifersThe city’s groundwater supply is a complex system composed of groundwater wells, pumps, treatment systems, electronic controls, and other equipment that must be operated regularly to identify maintenance needs. By doing this operation routinely, the bureau will ensure the reliability of the system when needed, either in an emergency or to meet seasonal supply demands.

The average contribution of groundwater to the system will be approximately 20 percent of the total daily water demand. Due to the low percentage of groundwater being blended with the Bull Run Source, the bureau does not expect there to be a noticeable change in water chemistry. It can take up to two weeks, depending on location and overall water demand, for the blended 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.

Congratulations to our AutoPay iPad Give-Away Winners!

Last year, three lucky Water Bureau AutoPay customers were chosen at random to each win a brand new iPad 4 Mini. Our three and a half month long AutoPay iPad promotion was our way of rewarding current AutoPay customers and getting the word out about the benefits of signing up for AutoPay.

And now the contest results are in. The winners have been named!

Congratulations to Patrick, Katherine and Windy of Northeast Portland! We hope you enjoy your new iPad Minis along with the hassle-free convenience of AutoPay.

iPad Give-Away winner Water Bureau employee shows the iPad give-aways

Left: Windy stops by the Water Bureau offices to pick up her iPad. Right: Customer Service representative Anna holds up the iPads that were given away.

 “Our customers are very clear about how important AutoPay is to them,” says Kathy Koch, Customer Service Director. “They expect it and appreciate it. It’s a convenience they don’t want to live without.”

Join Windy, Patrick, Katherine and 38,000 Other Water Bureau AutoPayers

With AutoPay, you can have your sewer, stormwater, and water bill auto-deducted from your checking account, debit card, or credit card. That’s right: Automagically.

AutoPay saves you time (hello, not having to write checks or log online!) and takes less than 5 minutes to sign up.

Plus, there’s no commitment and canceling is easy. There’s nothing to lose.

Give it a try. Sign up today!