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#TeamGroundwater: Why Anna Loves Groundwater and Thinks You Should, Too

Woman stands next to industrial door and concrete structure

Anna works well under pressure. Behind her wide smile and easy sense of humor runs a calmness perfectly adapted to the varied tasks she needs to get done during the day.

A three-year veteran of the bureau, Anna works in the Water Bureau’s Resource Protection and Planning group, supporting the work of the education, groundwater, and Bull Run protection programs. From measuring groundwater aquifer water levels to inspecting culverts in the Bull Run Watershed to leading students on tours, no two weeks are the same.

Woman climbing snowy mountain with climbing gearAnna is a trained geologist and environmental scientist and, like many who call the Northwest home, she came to Oregon from someplace else—Rhode Island, to be specific. Anna moved here 22 years ago, drawn to Oregon for its wild forests, rugged mountains, and “geology you can see…unlike the hidden rockfaces and granite formations buried throughout New England.”

Since moving to Oregon, Anna’s passion for the outdoors and earth sciences has taken her on many adventures: from Outdoor School to the NW Service Academy AmeriCorps Program, to the US Geological Survey, to the Oregon Department of State Lands, to Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District, and now to the Water Bureau where she puts her passion to work reviewing and reporting on data collected from some of Portland’s most important resources.

Tours, Culverts, and Monitoring Wells

Woman kneeling near large water pipe in forest with fernsIn the spring, summer, and fall, Anna can be found in the Bull Run Watershed leading public tours that introduce students and community members to the natural beauty surrounding Portland’s primary drinking water supply.

And Anna’s work in the Bull Run doesn’t stop at the tour bus. She’s also responsible for inspecting some of the 2,000 culverts that call Bull Run home. These culverts allow streams and ditch water to flow under Bull Run’s roads. Each year, Anna, with the help of engineering interns, inspects the watershed culverts for signs of failure to ensure they aren’t at risk of sending sediment into Bull Run reservoirs, impacting road access to Headworks and the Dams, or harming downstream fish habitat.

When Anna isn’t leading tours or collecting culvert data, she’s lending her scientific training to the Water Bureau’s groundwater protection program. This work includes regular trips into the field to measure aquifer levels that help the bureau ensure groundwater is sustainably pumped during production runs. With a work life split between such different tasks and physical locations, what is Anna’s driving passion? “Coffee,” she says with a laugh.

Woman stands next to pipe buried in ground on grassy fieldMonitoring Buried Treasure

When Portland is drinking groundwater, Anna is regularly checking aquifer levels in more than 50 groundwater monitoring wells throughout the City’s Columbia South Shore Well Field (CSSWF): Portland’s groundwater supply. The CSSWF is used to augment Bull Run water when needed—during hot summer months or when weather or emergency events prevent the use of Bull Run River water. While the well field is considered a secondary supply, it’s first in Anna’s geology-loving heart. “Groundwater isn’t just a ‘backup source,’” she likes to point out, “It’s a high-quality source and deserves to be respected as such.”

Where can one find this hidden groundwater well field? Tucked away in outer Northeast Portland, the Columbia South Shore Well Field covers 12 square miles. It’s boundary spans from Portland International Airport east to Troutdale, and from the Columbia River south to I-84. Deep underneath this land lie various aquifers—underground water-bearing rock layers—accessed via deep wells drilled between 1980 and 2004.

Unlike the Bull Run Watershed, public tours of the well field are rarely offered. If you tried visiting the groundwater facility, you wouldn’t get far. The large entrance gates are kept locked, safeguarding the pumps and pipes that transport water from the ground to Portlanders’ taps.

So what are you to do if you’re looking to learn more about Portland’s mysterious groundwater supply? “Sign up for Groundwater 101 on January 26,” says Anna.

“Each year bureau staff welcomes the public to learn about the well field with hands on activities and demonstrations. It’s like a groundwater mini-science fair designed for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Groundwater: Building a Resilient Portland

This summer was the second hottest on record in Portland, and this trend is expected to continue due to climate change. In the coming years, groundwater will grow in importance as a source of clean, high-quality drinking water for Portland-area residents during increasingly long, dry summers.

Start getting to know groundwater and the role it plays in Portlanders’ lives.

“Come out in January for Groundwater 101,” Anna says with a smile. “We’ll help you discover groundwater in a whole new light.” Learn more about groundwater, the role it plays in Portland’s water supply, and sign up for Groundwater 101 at https://www. columbiaslough.org/events/event/71.

Geology. Hydrogeology. Hands on activities including water testing and tasting. And an optional tour of the groundwater facility. Groundwater 101 attendees get unprecedented access to Water Bureau staff to learn the ins-and-outs of how water moves through layers of underground rock and how bureau staff care for this important resource.

Interested in meeting the passion behind the person? Anna will be presenting at Groundwater 101 alongside Doug Wise, the bureau’s Groundwater Protection Program Manager and Briggy Thomas, the bureau’s Education Program Manager.

Secure your spot at Groundwater 101 by RSVPing with the Columba Slough Watershed Council: https://www. columbiaslough.org/events/event/71.