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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

One of Portland’s most valuable resources is right beneath our feet. We can’t see it, but we do drink it!

Groundwater, found in underground layers of porous rock called aquifers, is a hidden reserve that supplies drinking water to Portland residents. Portland’s groundwater system is essential to meeting peak season water demand in the summer and for ensuring the Portland Water Bureau can provide water in the winter when storms sometimes make the Bull Run source unavailable due to elevated turbidity. This second feature of groundwater is essential to Portland’s ability to continue using the Bull Run source without filtering it.

To help bring groundwater to the surface, the Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council have partnered annually for 10 years to offer a free Groundwater 101 workshop to interested adults and high-school students.

A full house soaks up knowledge at Groundwater 101.

This interactive class teaches groundwater basics including local geology and hydrology, the role groundwater plays in our drinking water system, and what can be done to protect this important resource. 

Citizen scientists test water for dissolved minerals (left) and learn how water moves underground (right).

The most recent workshop was held on November 15, 2014 and the public interest was impressive. The class quickly filled to capacity and a wait-list was established. The workshop coordinators are encouraged by the demand and are working on more opportunities for the public to learn about groundwater.

"The Columbia South Shore Well Field is right here in town, so we all play a role in preserving this vital drinking water source,” says Doug Wise, Groundwater Protection Program Manager with the Water Bureau’s Resource Protection and Planning Group. “Outreach and educational events like Groundwater 101 provide our customers with the knowledge and tools they need to be responsible water stewards.”

To learn more about the groundwater right beneath your feet, including how you can protect this important resource, visit

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information


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