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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

Customer Service: 503-823-7770


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Your Grant Questions Answered

Questions that come in will be answered directly and posted here for all potential applicants. 

Question: At this point, are you only taking applications for community partners or for individuals needing served through the program? 

Answer: Both.  Customers with water leaks can apply for leak repair assistance online at or by calling 503-823-4527.  We do have a waitlist, but we hope to move through it pretty quickly once we have access to our new fiscal year funding (July 1st).

Question: Do (organizations that apply) need to be licensed plumbers? 

Answer: No.  Licensed plumbers need to do the work, but the role of the partner is to hire the plumber/coordinate the repair on behalf of the bureau. 

Question: What exactly what would we be coordinating?

From the application/information packet: Community partner role

Program outreach

  • Partners will actively promote the program to clients who may qualify as a part of their program offerings.
  • Partners will feature the program during events, workshops, and communications campaigns.
  • Complete intake (after customers are screened by the bureau)
  • Contact referred customers to gather any other needed intake information (anything your organization needs that was not already collected by the Portland Water Bureau (PWB). The bureau will share application information to reduce duplicating intake processes.

Coordinate repairs

  • Schedule community partner staff or licensed contract plumber to visit the property to assess the scope of plumbing work needed.
  • Coordinate response to needed plumbing repairs and issue work orders to the licensed plumbing contractor(s).

Provide water efficiency services

  • As is manageable within the community partner’s current framework:
  • Perform a short water audit for qualified customers, including leak detection and an inventory of recommended water efficiency actions.
  • The bureau is available to train staff in water efficiency and leak detection techniques.
  • Install or provide water efficiency devices as needed. Devices will be provided by the Water Bureau.

Ensure quality

  • Schedule staff to inspect repair work with the property owner after completion and evaluate client satisfaction.
  • Verify that the contractors have required insurance and permits, and complete required inspections when applicable.
  • Verify that all repairs made conform with City and County codes.
  • Verify that all contractors bidding and performing work on pre-1978 homes have an active Lead-Based Paint Renovator’s License from the Oregon Construction Contractor’s Board.
  • Confirm all repairs come with a one-year warranty.

Pay contractors and follow up with the bureau

  • Provide data to the bureau on customers served, leaks repaired, and repair dates by the 15th of each month for work performed during the previous month. This can be as simple as sending copies of paid invoices that include this information.
  • If the repair is quoted above certain thresholds, partners will need to coordinate with the Water Bureau for approval on the repair.
  • We will also want customers to help with outreach (letting people know about the program) and follow up (checking in with the customer to make sure the repair went well). You’ll be paying the plumber directly for the work.

Question: Are we (community partners) doing the installs of whatever you have or just giving them to needy clients?

Answer: We (PWB) will pre-screen and prioritize customers so partners will just be working down that list to coordinate repairs. If you have clients that need the service, you’ll direct them to the Water Bureau and we’ll do the intake process then refer them to partners to coordinate the repair.

 Question: How many clients are you expecting each group to handle?

Answer: We (PWB) don’t know how many community partners we’ll select or how many applications for repair assistance will come in over the year, but with the funding we have currently, we anticipate being able to serve between 150-200 people between all partners.

Question: What is the time frame of the grant? To get all work completed?

Answer: We have the funding secured for FY 20-21; we anticipate the work taking place September 2020 through June 2021. 

 Question: Is it a reimbursement grant or straight dollar grant?

Answer: Plan that it would be a reimbursement grant, but I am working internally to see if we can write the grant contracts to allow for some funding to be billed upfront to cover some initial costs.   

 Question: Is there an average dollar size for the grant(s)?

Answer: This is a new way of running this program so we don’t have a history of grants to give you an average, but in the past our partnership with Multnomah County has been funded at $60,000-$90,000 per fiscal year.

Question: Can you explain the budget? How much money is the grant for?

Answer: We will award up to $165,000.  This may be to one organization or split between a few.  15% of the total award can be used for administrative purposes.  The rest of the funding should go to direct service (paying plumbers to fix leaks, in home assessments and water efficiency services).

Question: Will you be paying for washing machine replacements?

Answer: Yes, there may be customers who have very inefficient washing machines.  We may choose to have the machine replaced in order to help the customer better manage their bill. 

Question: It would be helpful if they could provide us a copy of the “inventory of recommended water efficiency actions” they refer to under “c”. that should give us an idea as to the types of issues they want addressed in this program.

Answer: It can be as easy as leaving behind a brochure that the Water Bureau would provide. Actions would include things like changing out showerheads and aerators, checking for toilet leaks often, changing out older toilets for WaterSense models, etc.

Question: Also under “c” they refer to a short water audit. I’m assuming they can detect significant changes in water consumption via the meter reading/billing. Are they asking the community partner to shut down anything using water and then monitor the meter? That’s relatively easy to do in most cases.

Answer: Yes, it would be great to use the meter (as indicated in the question) to check for leaks.  Beyond that, here’s what an audit could include – but we can determine what is reasonable with the partner.  Not all of this would need to be done every time, but ideally:

  • Identify and catalog the location and severity of leaks in fixtures including but not limited to faucets, toilets, and pipes.
  • Place dye tablet in toilets to determine water leaks form the tank to the bowl due to a faulty toilet flapper.
  • Identify and catalog inefficient fixtures such as toilets, showerheads, and faucet fixtures.
  • Catalog top loading or standard washing machines present or not.
  • Demonstrate to customers how to read water meter and check for leaks by utilizing the meter leak detection dial.
    • This shall be completed either at the meter or through a diagram provided in the education material in the packet provided by the utility.
  • Install or leave behind the following devices as needed:
  • l .5 gpm high performance showerheads;
  • l.0 gpm bubble spray high performance bathroom faucet aerators;
  • l .5 gpm kitchen swivel faucet aerators; and,
  • Toilet fill-cycle diverters.

Question: Looks like they plan on sending us the homeowners after they pre-screen their customers. We should clarify if they are able to reimburse us for remedying any of the “recommended water efficiency actions” that takes place during our (home repair related event). 

Answer: The intention is to reimburse for water efficiency work for customers that the Water Bureau refers over.  We are open to a proposal that includes reimbursement of this work in another format (event). Participants would still need to meet the program eligibility guidelines.   

Question: Are they including the replacement of the water service to the house in this program?

Answer: Replacement of water service lines is a part of this program.  Often these repairs are expensive though, and will require pre-approval from the Water Bureau project manager. So the partner would get a quote (or quotes), send it over to the Water Bureau and we would decide if we have the budget to cover it.  If so, we give the okay to proceed and reimburse the partner for the cost of the repair.

  1. $3,000 can be spent on each home without approval by a Water Bureau project manager.
  2. Projects estimated to cost between $3,000 and $5,000 require Water Bureau project manager approval.
  3. Any project over $5,000 requires three bids and Water Bureau project manager approval.

Question: Confirming the people doing the work have to be licensed/bonded contractors.

Answer: Yes, repairs and fixture replacements must be made by a licensed plumber (except for washing machine replacements that don’t require a replacement of the drain or water valves). If community partners have a licensed plumber on staff, they can do the work, or the organization may choose to subcontract to a licensed plumber.

Question: Are we supposed to also fill out a budget?

Answer: No budget is needed in the grant application.  There is a 15% cap on admin, and we’ve built in limits per client, but no budget needed.  The rest of the funds (85%) should go to direct repair or water efficiency services that would include site visits and actual repair work. We expect to clarify the budget (but still keep it simple) in the grant contract process once awards are made.