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Portland Water Bureau

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Five Presidents That Helped Protect Portland’s Water Supply

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Presidents’ Day is a time to remember and reflect on the contributions made to our country by each of our past U.S. Presidents.

Washington, D.C. may seem worlds away from Portland, Oregon, but five past Presidents had a part in helping preserve the Bull Run Watershed – the federally-protected reserve that supplies fresh, clean drinking water to over 900,000 Oregonians every day.

Let’s take a moment to learn about these five past Presidents who helped protect this important natural resource.

President Benjamin HarrisonPresident Benjamin Harrison

In 1892, using powers granted to him under the Forest Reserve Act passed by Congress a year prior, President Benjamin Harrison established the Bull Run Forest Reserve which prohibited settlement in the 142,000-acre reserve. President Harrison’s act also made it easier for the Portland Water Committee (later renamed the Portland Water Board) to acquire private land and water rights in the basin. The establishment of the Forest Reserve set a precedent for federal protection of the Bull Run. It was the first step of many in protecting and preserving the delicate ecosystem that supplies Portland’s drinking water.

President Theodore RooseveltPresident Theodore Roosevelt

Despite the new settlement restrictions signed into law by President Harrison, fishing, hunting, camping and livestock grazing were still allowed in the newly-created Bull Run Forest Reserve. Because of this, the Portland Water Board sought additional land use restrictions within the reserve to further protect Portland’s drinking water supply.

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Bull Run Trespass Act which further limited entry and activities – including grazing – in the Bull Run Forest Reserve. But the specific wording of the law left the law open to interpretation, planting seeds for conflict over access and forest management in the Bull Run. Over the next half-century, the Portland Water Board, which would become the Water Bureau in 1913, completed a variety of infrastructure projects – including adding diversion structures, water conduits and others – to the original system. But by the mid-1950s, the City of Portland and the U.S. Forest Service began to disagree about logging and public access in the watershed.

President Jimmy CarterPresident Jimmy Carter

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Bull Run Act (PL 95-200). The law replaced the Trespass Act of 1904 and declared that the principal management objective of the Watershed to be the production of “…pure, clear, raw potable water…for the City of Portland and other local government units and persons in the Portland metropolitan area.” Other activities inside the watershed were permitted, provided they did not interfere with the primary objective of the Watershed.

The Bull Run Act also created the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit (BRWMU; the administrative boundary of the Bull Run Watershed), authorized the Forest Service to enact entry restrictions and formally recognized a role for the City of Portland in the management the Bull Run. The law did not settle the controversy around logging and logging continued in the Bull Run until the early 1990s. 

President Bill ClintonPresident Bill Clinton

President Clinton signed into law the Oregon Resource Conservation Act of 1996. This law amended the Bull Run Act and prohibited all timber harvest on all Forest Service lands within the Bull Run River drainage except for tree cutting needed to protect or enhance water quality or water quantity and for the development, operation and maintenance of hydropower and water supply facilities. This Act largely ended the logging controversy in the Bull Run.

President George BushPresident George W. Bush

In 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the Little Sandy Protection Act. This law added most of the Little Sandy watershed to the BRWMU and extended the timber restrictions throughout the Little Sandy drainage within the BRWMU. (The Little Sandy is outside of the water supply drainage boundary.)

Learn More about the Bull Run Watershed

Careful and responsible management and protection of the Bull Run drinking water supply are vital to maintaining Portland’s high quality water quality and public health.

To learn more about the Bull Run Watershed and how federal, City and State protections safeguard this important resource, click here.

Water Bureau Offices Closed for the President's Day Holiday on Monday, Feb. 19

Water Bureau Offices Closed Feb. 20In observance of the President's Day holiday, Portland Water Bureau offices will be closed this Monday, Feb. 19. Offices will reopen on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 8 a.m.

This closure includes both the Customer Service Call Center and the Customer Service Walk-In Service Center located on the sixth floor at 111 SW Columbia St., Suite 660, Portland, Oregon.

How to Pay Your Utility Bill

During the holiday, Water Bureau customers can pay their bill in the following ways:

  • Online: Click here
  • Phone: Pay by phone by dialing 503-823-7770 and pressing 1
  • Drop off: Leave a payment in the Water Bureau's drop box located at 111 SW Columbia St. (at the corner of SW 1st Ave. and SW Columbia St).

Water Emergency Hotline

To report a water system emergency, contact the 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 503-823-4874.

Cracking the Code: How We’re Helping Renters in Need Afford Their Utility Bills

Helping renters afford their utility bill

Portland’s sewer, stormwater, and water rates pay for some of Portland’s most important infrastructure. Infrastructure like underground pipes, earthquake-ready reservoirs, above-ground fire hydrants, and 24/7 water and sewer service to nearly a million metro area residents.

But as Portland becomes less affordable, what happens when a family faces a sudden crisis and cannot pay their rent?

The Challenge: How to Reach Renters in Need

Portland Water Bureau Low Income Services HistoryFrom the Utility Safety Net Program to Flexible Bill Pay, the Water Bureau has offered a variety of financial assistance options for years. These offerings are designed to help customers in need pay for essential sewer and water services.

So what about Portlanders that live in apartments, townhomes, duplexes, and other multi-family units?

These renters use water and sewer services just like anybody else. The biggest difference is that multi-family renters don’t directly pay a sewer, stormwater, or water bill. Instead, they pay for sewer and water services indirectly in the form of rent given to their landlord. This makes it difficult to get financial help. No Water Bureau account means that multi-family renters – those without a meter measuring individual water -- never interact directly with our Customer Service specialists, who are generally the first in line to point customers to financial assistance programs when the need arises.

The challenge of helping renters in need isn’t unique to Portland. It’s a challenge faced by utilities across the country.

What makes the Water Bureau unique is that it’s found a unique solution to this challenge that has eluded utilities for decades.

Our Plan: Real Solutions for a Growing City

Tomorrow, Feb. 13th, Water Bureau staff will present several ways it can enhance its menu of low-income discount services. These improvements include an increase in the crisis voucher program, and an adjustment of the financial assistance income eligibility requirements to better reflect the needs of Portlanders, among others.

But the most anticipated improvement is a unique proposal to reach multi-family renters in need.

Partnering Up to Reach More Portlanders In Need

To expand financial assistance to these Portlanders, we’re proposing a partnership with Home Forward – Portland’s housing authority. Home Forward is a trusted city partner and a leader in local affordable housing services.

$500
Represents about 80% of the average sewer and water consumption in a typical Portland apartment.

With Home Forward’s partnership, we will be investing in an existing program that is proven to help low-income renters in multi-family units. Home Forward relies on a number of sources of funding for its rent assistance programs. Together with the Bureau of Environmental Services, we will be adding up to $500 in eligible assistance per year for each household-in-need. With this new investment, we can reach low-income customers in apartments for the first time in our history.

The goal of this partnership is to make financial assistance available to 1,200 Portlanders each year. Our vision will be a win-win for all our customers: helping more Portlanders in need while allowing us to focus on what we do best – maintaining and building a system that delivers a constant flow of clean drinking water to almost a million Portlanders every minute of every day.

3 Reasons Why Your Students Will Love (and Learn from) the Water Bureau’s School Assembly Program

Portland-area teachers: Are you looking for a creative way to bring science and fun into your students’ curriculum?

Water The Musical

Well, look no further! The Water Bureau offers three, FREE, and creative school assembly programs designed to capture the attention of even your most energic student. Our assembly programs are an easy way to compliment your STEM curriculum with a high-quality learning. Here’s three reasons your students (and fellow teachers) will love (and learn from) our assembly programs.

Puppet Power!

TEACH magazine says, “When puppets talk, children listen.” Professor Drop and the Droplets brings the excitement of exploration and adventure directly to a room full of captivated children. Using interactive science instruction mixed with a generous helping of fun, music, and humor, this 25-minute show opens eyes and engages young minds.

Science by Story

A mechanical engineer turned storyteller/dancer/musician/kid-at-heart, Rick Huddle combines catchy tunes, zany facial expressions, and good old-fashioned silliness to get kids excited to learn about Portland’s unique water system and how to use a precious resource wisely.

Adventure with Rick in Where Did the Water Go to find out where water goes on its day-to-day journeys.

Drama, drama, drama!

And Water – The Musical brings lots of it. This two-person musical puts its soundtrack to work, expertly weaving together “stuck-in-your-head” musical numbers with a sprinkling of pop culture references (think Stranger Things and Hamilton). Your students will love this 30-minute set of non-stop movement, music, and information education about Portland’s drinking water.

Sign Up for a Free School Assembly from the Portland Water Bureau

Our FREE, limited-term school assembly programs won’t be available forever.

Programs are open to all elementary schools within the Portland Water Bureau service area. Not sure if your school can apply? Give us a call at -503-823-7003 or use the widget to the right.

Sign Up for School Assembly Program

Feb. 2, 2018: Cryptosporidium Monitoring Update

Feb 2 Cryptosporidium UpdateThe Portland Water Bureau received results from ongoing monitoring from the Bull Run Watershed intake for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. Two Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected in a 50-liter sample collected on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Prior to this detection, Cryptosporidium was last detected from the Bull Run Watershed intake on Jan. 15, when one oocyst was detected in a 50-liter sample.

The bureau continues to use the Bull Run as its primary source of drinking water. The Portland Water Bureau does not currently treat for Cryptosporidium, but is required to do so under the drinking water regulations. Portland is working to install filtration by 2027 under a compliance schedule with Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, Portland Water Bureau is implementing interim measures such as watershed protection and additional monitoring to protect public health. Consultation with public health officials has concluded that at this time, customers do not need to take any additional precautions.

About Cryptosporidium                                             

Exposure to Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a serious illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain. People with healthy immune systems recover without medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with severely weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system; and cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that a small percentage of the population could experience gastro-intestinal illness from Cryptosporidium and advises that customers who are immunocompromised and receive their drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed consult with their healthcare professional about the safety of drinking the tap water. The Portland Water Bureau and Burlington, City of Gresham, City of Sandy, City of Tualatin, Green Valley, GNR, Hideaway Hills, Lake Grove, Lorna Portland Water, Lusted, Palatine Hill, Pleasant Home, Raleigh, Rockwood, Skyview Acres, Tualatin Valley, Two Rivers, Valley View and West Slope Water Districts receive all or part of their drinking water supply from the Bull Run. To learn if your drinking water comes from Bull Run, please contact your local drinking water provider.

More Information

The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the

City’s website at portlandoregon.gov/water/cryptoresults. The bureau will notify the media and public immediately should further test results indicate a risk to public health and precautions are necessary.

Customers with questions regarding water quality can call the Water Line at  503-823-7525.