Portland Water Bureau
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News Releases
Investing in Your Infrastructure: Water Bureau Sets Record for Proactive Pipe Replacement Despite Pandemic Setbacks - 07/07/21

NOTE: B-roll footage of crews working in the field available upon request.

When the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, Water Bureau work crews adapted quickly to their changing work conditions. Pivoting to what they call “Quaranteams,” work crews of approximately ten people who work together exclusively, were formed to reduce risk while increasing productivity.

Despite many restrictions and challenges, the Portland Water Bureau’s Maintenance & Construction (M&C) Division broke a record for new pipe installation, making major gains in maintaining aging infrastructure. In fiscal year 20/21, crews proactively replaced 31,700 feet of pipe. This record was set with pandemic restrictions in place such as limits to sharing equipment and vehicles, and other statewide restrictions on how they completed their work. The prior record, set two years ago, was 28,000 feet of pipe replaced. In the last decade, the average was approximately 23,000 feet of proactively replaced pipe.

The increase in output follows guidance from the bureau’s Asset Management Division whose function is to evaluate our system assets, weighing the consequence and likelihood of failure, and recommending strategies to mitigate any with higher consequence. The expected useful life of cast iron pipe in our system is estimated to be around 125 years, and Asset Management analysis revealed that in the next 20-40 years, large cohorts of pipe installed in the early to mid 1900s will enter the late stages of their useful life. With this in mind, the bureau has ramped up its replacement pace both with in-house resources and contractors. The bureau plans to continue its ramp up of pipe replacement along with contractors to reach a pace of approximately 40,000 feet each year over the next 5 years.

The new pipe that is being installed is ductile iron, which is designed to last 250 years in Portland’s soil conditions. To further increase efficiency, as pipes are being replaced, they are being right-sized for improved water quality, fire protection, and additional fire hydrants for neighborhoods.

“The maintenance demands of our system did not slow down due to the pandemic and we are really proud of our team for achieving this goal during such a challenging year,” said Kovatch, “From our engineering staff who designed it to our crews who installed it, it takes a lot of coordination and effort, and despite many hurdles presented by the pandemic, the Water Bureau had its most productive year of pipe replacement ever.”


About the Portland Water Bureau

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.

Portland Water Bureau Resumes Normal Operations As Chlorine Shortage Resolves - 07/06/21

After a shortage threatened reliable shipments of chlorine to the West Coast and other parts of the country, the Portland Water Bureau has resumed normal operations.

Two main factors triggered the resolution to the shortage. Westlake, the chlorine production facility in Longview, Wash., successfully repaired its transformer on June 23 and has ramped up operations to deliver chlorine to its customers, which includes the Portland Water Bureau. Also, Portland has received several chlorine deliveries and does not anticipate interruption to upcoming deliveries.

“This chlorine shortage demonstrated how smart investments, strong partnerships and emergency planning came through,” said Portland Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer. “A million people depend on us to provide safe and reliable drinking water. We take this responsibility seriously and we deliver, every minute of every day.”

Please note that water providers throughout the region have different chlorine supply situations. Please check with your water provider about your local situation if you live outside our service area. Find your water service provider.

What’s Happening Now

Throughout the regional chlorine shortage, Portland Water Bureau was able to provide uninterrupted water to Portlanders and partner water providers. Portland had adequate chlorine on site and made operational adjustments to ensure there was no interruption in the delivery of safe drinking water to our customers. Portland did not activate groundwater to extend the supply of Bull Run chlorine during this shortage but was prepared to do so if needed.

How we adjusted

The Portland Water Bureau made operational shifts and identified additional steps that could be taken to extend our chlorine supply. Groundwater has its own supply of chlorine that can augment the Bull Run, if needed. We proactively lowered our chlorine target to 1.8 mg/L, which continued treating water at a safe level and met treatment requirements. We are now targeting 2.5 mg/L, which is typical for this time of year.

We stayed in close contact with our partners at Portland Parks & Recreation to also identify activities that prioritize water for people. No changes were needed and Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks kept water flowing to Benson Bubblers, splashpads and fountains.

How we prepare for the unexpected

Because of wise planning and investment, Portland is prepared for a variety of situations affecting clean and safe drinking water. Two high-quality water sources, the Columbia South Shore Well Field and the Bull Run Watershed, give us operational flexibility. Partnerships with other regional water providers further strengthen our ability to be ready for the unexpected. We have a Seasonal Supply Plan that we update each year to be ready for what comes our way.

What’s next

As we head into summer, our reservoirs have begun their annual drawdown, when more water is being used in town than is coming into Bull Run watershed. This is a normal occurrence and there is no need to reduce your household water use. While we always encourage wise water use, we anticipate having enough water to meet everyone’s needs this summer. If needed, we can supplement our Bull Run water supply with groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field.

What can you do?

Portlanders have a strong ethic of using water wisely. Keep doing what you’re doing and the Portland Water Bureau will keep you informed of changes.

About the Portland Water Bureau

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two high quality water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.

Water is Flowing from Washington Park Reservoir - 06/29/21

The Portland Water Bureau?has achieved?a?major?milestone?– activating the?12.4-million-gallon?reservoir at Washington Park.?The first of two reservoir cells will be online and providing drinking water today! The second reservoir?cell will provide?drinking?water?to the west side of Portland in early July.? 

NOTE: Video is available here:  



Photos are available here: Washington Park Reservoirs Digital Resources 

The Portland Water Bureau has worked for decades to?upgrade our system to?withstand earthquakes. This?includes?the?new?reservoirs at Kelly Butte and Powell Butte that store water on the east side.?The Washington Park?Reservoir Project is?critical?to our region's?plan?to provide water and recover economically after an earthquake.? 

“Activating the new reservoir?at Washington Park brings us closer to?our vision for a healthy,?resilient?Portland,” said Portland Water Bureau Chief Engineer Jodie Inman.?“We are?carefully investing your ratepayer dollars in?a?resilient?water system?today?that can withstand a major quake to continue to provide drinking water, support economic recovery, and fight fires for generations to come.”??? 

The last major concrete pour to build the Washington Park Reservoir was in December.?Since then, crews?have?tested?the reservoir cells to make sure they?are?sanitized and?water tight.?With?this work completed, the?first of two cells of the reservoir was put in use for?drinking water?and emergency planning?on June 29.? 

What’s next? 

The new, seismically reinforced reservoir is now in service but work to replace the original 1894 reservoir continues at the site. Once completed, the new reservoir will?retain the?historic look and feel of the original, but it?has?been engineered with modern technology to withstand?a major?earthquake.  

Over the next few months, additional soil will be placed on and around the new reservoir. Then, over the next two years,?there will be a pause in construction to?allow for soil to settle. Once the soil has settled, the bureau can begin?to?build?a beautiful reflecting pool, a lowland habitat area and bioswale, and historic interpretive elements.?During the construction pause, work will continue on the south side of the worksite to enhance safety features and?replace outdated mechanical systems inside of the hypochlorite building.?This allows us to?add chlorination for the future reflecting pool on top of the reservoir.?When this project is completed in 2025, the public will enjoy unprecedented access to the area surrounding the historic reservoirs.? 

Project Facts? 

The Portland Water Bureau’s?Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project?is a key to seismically strengthening water infrastructure on Portland’s west side and helping to?ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system.?? 

  • The reservoir stores?12.4 million gallons of water?for drinking and fire suppression.? 

  • The new reservoir?has been?reinforced to resist landslides?and earthquakes.? 

  • More than 360,000 people on the west side of the Willamette River?receive?water from the reservoir, including all downtown businesses?and residents, 20 schools, five hospital complexes, more than 60?parks, and the Oregon Zoo.? 

  • This project exceeded?City?goals for the number of?women and minority apprentice hours:?currently?55.07%, goal 31%.? 

  • The project also exceeded City goals for the number of?women and?minority journey workers: currently?31.39%, goal 28%. 

About the Portland Water Bureau 

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.