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Portland Water Bureau

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Summer Water Supply Frequently Asked Questions

Where does our drinking water come from?

The Bull Run is a low-elevation watershed that gets its water primarily from rain, not snow. The watershed gets approximately 135 inches of rain each year, about 3-4 times more rain than we get here in town. 

The Columbia South Shore Well Field groundwater source can be used to augment the Bull Run supply. This secondary source of reliable, high quality water can be used either in an emergency or to meet seasonal supply demands. 

How does the Portland Water Bureau prepare for the summer?

The Portland Water Bureau carefully monitors water levels, weather forecasts, and water use patterns to ensure adequate, clean water for all of our customers. As it does every year, the Portland Water Bureau carefully watches our water supply through the summer. The City has also identified additional contingency sources and strategies to address even the most severe conditions. For updates and more information, visit

 Is there enough water to get through the summer?

Yes. The Portland Water Bureau is prepared to meet the drinking water needs of our customers. With an average daily summer water demand of 114 million gallons, it can take careful planning to meet the needs of our customers. The Bull Run water system is designed to capture and store rainfall from the rainy season to provide adequate water supply during the dry summer months. The approximately 9.9 billion gallons stored in the two Bull Run reservoirs along with summer stream flows is sufficient to meet water demand during most years.

Will the Portland Water Bureau activate groundwater this summer?

The Columbia South Shore Well Field is Portland’s secondary water supply. The well field has 26 wells in three aquifers that are capable of producing nearly 95 million gallons per day.The Portland Water Bureau routinely performs a groundwater maintenance operation to ensure the wellfield is operational in the event it is needed for emergency supply. The Portland Water Bureau will look to activate groundwater this summer if needed to supplement our drinking water supply.

Should Portlanders expect water restrictions this summer?

No. Based on available supplies, customer demands and anticipated weather patterns, Portland does not anticipate any water supply shortages. With no anticipated shortages, there are no expectations that water restrictions will be necessary. If conditions change, the Portland Water Bureau will communicate directly with customers and indicate if water use behaviors need to change.

Are water supplies typical this year?

Each fall, the Bull Run reservoirs refill to capacity and remain full until drawdown. Drawdown occurs each year when more water is used from our reservoirs than streams carry into them. Drawdown typically occurs around July 4 and lasts until the fall rain return. The winter rainfall has filled the reservoirs, resulting in a typical water supply.

What can I do to use water wisely this summer?
The Water Bureau has an efficiency program, where you can learn more about using water wisely all year round with information about native plants in your garden and low-flow devices for your showers, faucet and toilets. You can learn more at

How much water does my garden need during summer?
Signs of summer – brown lawns, wilted plants, and dry soils – lead many Portlanders to water lawns and gardens. The Portland Water Bureau partners with the Regional Water Providers Consortium to publish the Weekly Watering Numbera service which gives you the amount of water (in inches) your plants will need each week. The weekly watering number is updated every Thursday from April-September. It takes into account evapotranspiration (ET) rates according to your zip code. Visit to see what your plants need today.

Portland’s population is growing. Does Portland have enough water for new residents in the future?

The Water Bureau’s best partner in ensuring that we have more than enough water for years to come is you! From 2004 to 2014, Portland’s population grew by 18 percent—but the city’s total water use decreased by 13 percent. This water savings is partly a result of how Portlanders have embraced water-saving technology and changed behaviors to make the most of each drop.

Will there be enough water in future years, as our climate changes?

Yes. The Portland Water Bureau is actively working to understand and plan for climate change impacts to the drinking water system. The Northwest’s climate future is expected to include hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters with heavier rainstorms, and more rain and less snow falling at higher elevations. Winters with low snow accumulation and warmer than average temperatures (like the winter of 2014/2015) will therefore become increasingly more likely over the next few decades. Fortunately, unlike many other Oregon communities, Portland’s primary water supply in the Bull Run watershed relies on mostly rain-fed reservoirs, and is less vulnerable to the effect of warming temperatures on snow. Portland's backup groundwater supply also increases the water system’s resilience to climate change and can be used to supplement Bull Run when needed. In addition, over the past 10 years, the city’s total water use has decreased by 13% while population has grown by 18% due to increasing water use efficiency by Portland water customers. As a result, Portland’s water system is expected to continue meeting customer needs into the foreseeable future, even when factoring in climate change and population growth.