Customer Service: 503-823-7770
GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404
The Water Bureau plans carefully each year to make sure everyone has the water they need throughout the Portland area’s dry summers. To make sure there’s enough water for a particularly hot, dry summer, the Water Bureau can supplement its usual Bull Run supply with groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field. At this point, the Water Bureau anticipates that with these two sources there will be plenty of water to get through the summer.
The Water Bureau carefully monitors reservoir levels, weather forecasts, and water use patterns to make sure there’s enough water. As it does every year, the Water Bureau is carefully watching the water supply and has a plan for a range of possible supply conditions.
The Portland Water Bureau is planning to perform an annual groundwater maintenance run to ensure it’s reliability. However, the Water Bureau makes decisions to use groundwater to supplement supply based on many decades of historic supply conditions, current demand conditions, and short- and long-term weather forecasts. Portland has used groundwater multiple times since the 1980s to help meet summer demand and to serve as a backup source for Bull Run.
Based on supply, demand, and weather forecasts, Portland does not anticipate any water supply shortages this year. The Water Bureau will communicate directly with customers and water users if conditions change.
Water supply conditions fluctuate from year to year. Each fall, the Bull Run reservoirs fill to capacity, and remain full until late spring or early summer. Drawdown—the term for the period each year during which the amount of water stored in the Bull Run reservoirs decreases—typically starts in early July and continues until the return of autumn rains.
This year, an unusually dry spring resulted in and early start of reservoir drawdown. Drawdown started on May 7, which is earlier than the average start of early July. So far, this year is similar to the warm, dry summers of 2015 and 2018.
Yes. As Portland’s population has grown, the city’s total water use has actually decreased. From 2007 to 2017, Portland’s population grew by 11 percent while the city’s total water use decreased by 15 percent. Portlanders have embraced water-saving technology and changed behaviors to make the most of each drop. Portland’s summer water demand has also decreased due to changing land use development patterns. This has resulted in less land being used as lawns and outside vegetation that require irrigation.
Portland’s water system is expected to continue to meet demand as the climate changes. The Water Bureau is actively working to understand and plan for climate change impacts to the drinking water system.
The Northwest’s future climate will be warmer, with more frequent hot, dry summers, wetter winters with heavier rainstorms, and less winter snowfall. Winters with little snow (such as 2014/2015) are increasingly likely to happen over the next few decades. Fortunately, unlike many other Western water supplies, Portland’s primarily rain-fed Bull Run water supply does not depend on snow. Portland's groundwater supply, which is also not expected to be significantly affected by the anticipated decline in snow precipitation, also increases the water system’s resilience to climate change and can be used to supplement Bull Run when needed.
At this time, Portland does not have a water shortage; there is sufficient water supplies to meet demand. This is partly because Portlanders have done a great job over the last few decades of using water wisely, which has reduced overall demand. In the summer, a lot of people use more water outside. Customers can learn how to use water outdoors wisely at the Water Bureau’s website.
The Water Bureau works with the Regional Water Providers Consortium to publish the Weekly Watering Number, which provides the amount of water plants need each week. The weekly watering number is updated every Thursday from April to September.