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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

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Powell Butte Reservoir & Nature Park

View of Mt Hood from Powell Butte summer concerts

Portland Water Bureau facilities at Powell Butte Nature Park, including two 50-million gallon underground water reservoirs, are an important part of Portland's water system.

Powell Butte Reservoir 1 has an overflow elevation of approximately 530 feet. This is perfect for a gravity-fed system that brings water to Portland from the Bull Run Watershed, 35 miles east of Portland. The Powell Butte Reservoir 1, which became operational in 1981, can distribute water by gravity to parts of Washington County whose water once required pumping, saving on electricity costs.

Powell Butte is in good alignment between the Bull Run Watershed and Portland. An intertie system with the three conduits from the Bull Run watershed can deliver up to 146,000 gallons per minute to Powell Butte’s Reservoir 1. More than 85 percent of the water supplied by the Portland Water Bureau goes through the Powell Butte Reservoir.

Proximity to Groundwater Supplies
Transmission pipelines connect the Portland Water Bureau’s groundwater supply to Powell Butte for quick delivery of water to manage emergencies or turbidity events or supplement summer supply. The groundwater comes from wells in the Columbia South Shore wellfield. Groundwater is pumped about 4.5 miles to Powell Butte where it can be mixed with Bull Run water.

Gravity Feed to Washington County Supply Line
Powell Butte delivers water to Washington County Supply Line. The supply line runs 14 miles from Powell Butte to the county line at Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. This line delivers up to 60 million gallons of water a day to wholesale water customers in the Tualatin Valley, City of Tualatin, and Raleigh Water Districts.

Storage Capacity
Combined, Reservoir 1 and 2 can hold 100 million gallons of water. Combining its storage capacity with those of reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington Park, the Portland Water Bureau can store several days supply of water for the City of Portland.

History - Developing A Multi-Use Resource

  • Powell Butte was known from the 1880’s through the 1970’s as Camp’s Butte for the family that originally owned it. Historically, the butte was mostly used for grazing cattle. The central open meadow, with its panoramic views of Cascade peaks, climbs gently to the old apple, pear and walnut orchard at the summit.
  • In 1925, the Portland Water Bureau purchased Powell Butte for $135,000 as a site for future reservoirs. That figures out to about $550 an acre. Long-range planning of up to 50-75 years is a hallmark of the water industry.
  • In 1981 the first reservoir was installed.
  • In 1983, the Portland Water Bureau, the Parks Bureau and citizen groups began planning to develop opportunities for hiking, bird watching, biking and horseback riding at Powell Butte.
  • In 1990, Powell Butte Nature Park , the second largest in the city, was dedicated. The Portland Water Bureau, Land and Water Conservation Grants, the Portland Park Trust Fund and the 40-mile Loop Land Trust funded the project. The work of the Portland Water Bureau, in cooperation with the Parks Bureau, have made this attractive landmark site accessible to the public.