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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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PSU Capstone Students Show Appreciation of Water System

The Portland Water Bureau has been a long-time partner of the Portland State University (PSU) Senior Capstone program.

The PSU Capstone program is a community-based learning opportunity for students in their senior year of undergraduate studies. This unique academic-water utility partnership helps students learn how to make informed decisions about the future of water systems for themselves, their families, and their communities. It also serves to educate the next generation of potential water management professionals.

PSU Capstone students have developed education and outreach tools to interpret what we do at the Water Bureau for the last several years. Every term there are standout projects that are original, entertaining, effective, or a combination of these three characteristics.

PSU Capstone students Brian and Jacob display their handcrafted three-dimensional topographic model of the Bull Run Watershed.The 2016 summer term students presented their projects this month. Among them was a handcrafted three-dimensional topographic model of the Bull Run Watershed. The intent of this project was to illustrate how geography and topography have allowed our efficient gravity fed system to operate for nearly a century. In addition to being a work of art, the model can be a tactile tool for helping students visiting the Bull Run to understand the scale and complexity of our supply source.

While working on their projects, the students meet with several staff from the bureau to learn about Water Bureau history, infrastructure, and what staff must accomplish to produce cold, clean, and constant water for our customers.

At the end of the term, students were asked to sum up their experiences….and they had some great things to say:

I gained an appreciation for the sheer scope of the effort and thought that goes into ensuring cold, clean and constant water to Portlanders.  This water is thought of so little by those that use it (myself included before this class) which made it great to hear from so many people from the Water Bureau who are constantly thinking about it…. this is clearly more than just a job to the people at the Water Bureau, they take it seriously and seem to enjoy the important work they do.”

As a geography major almost ready to face the real world I am eager to apply for jobs in agencies I never thought would be applicable to my area of study (including the Water Bureau itself).  I am incredibly glad I chose this senior capstone as it has not only been educational, but inspiring to think I could get a job where although my topic may be small, my impact could be incredibly large.”

My final impression of water utilities is probably the same as every other student: How they play such integral parts in our day to day life and that we literally would fall into complete chaos if something were to happen due to some tragic event or something as simple as the water being turned off.  I have more respect for the public utility that works around the clock every day of the year and I hope that I can teach friends and family about how important they are."

To learn more about the program, visit


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