Aligning Sewer and Stormwater Rates and Charges with Service Costs

On this page, you will learn about the work we are doing to align our current sewer and stormwater rate and charges with service costs.
On this page

Investing in a Healthier and More Resilient Portland

The miles of pipes, pump stations, and treatment facilities that make up our sanitary sewer and stormwater system protect public health and the environment, promote economic development, and support community and climate resiliency. This year, Environmental Services will invest $649 million* to operate, maintain, and repair this infrastructure. Large portions of the system were built more than a century ago. Significant investments in upgrades and repairs are essential to meet regulatory requirements and the needs of our growing population and respond to a changing climate.

*Based on the 2022-23 budget.

Current Challenges

Many components of our pipes and pump station network and the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant are reaching the end of their operational life. Maintenance costs are increasing, and there is a risk of substantial failures if repairs and upgrades are not made. These significant investment needs are compounded by rising costs due to supply chain issues, increasing labor costs, and an inflationary environment that is driving up the cost of every project.

Aligning Rates and Charges

Since 2019, Environmental Services has been conducting a rate study or cost-of-service analysis, which is a technical analysis comparing our rates and charges with peer agencies. The analysis focuses on developing recommendations for updating how we charge our ratepayers to ensure billing is more consistent with service costs.

As part of this effort, we are conducting an outreach and engagement effort to gather community feedback and input on various aspects of the rate study. The feedback and input gathered during this effort will inform the current analysis and future bureau priorities, strategic direction, and decision-making.

Engagement Opportunities

Technical Discussion Sessions

Representatives from community organizations, commercial and industrial businesses, and other interested Environmental Services ratepayers are invited to participate in a technical discussion about the way customers are charged for our services.

Engagement with community members and ratepayers will help inform how Environmental Services implements the updated rate structure. We hope to engage with you in a way that allows for deep technical discussion while also giving space for people from non-technical backgrounds to contribute and learn.  

We are offering three online sessions via Zoom at different times so people can choose which session works best for them. Please click the link below to register for the session you would like to attend.

Please note: the technical discussion sessions will cover a lot of details. These sessions are meant to provide a deep dive into the findings of the technical analysis. If this sounds like something you or someone you know may be interested in, please register ahead of time.

Informational Presentations

Environmental Services will offer more informal and less technical information sessions throughout the community. These informational presentations will occur in the spring and early summer of 2023.

Office Hours 

If you would like additional detail or have questions regarding the rate study, the following times have been set aside for one-on-one conversations with Environmental Services staff. We encourage attending a Technical Discussion Session but recognize that some may have additional questions. Please review the available time slots and email to reserve a time.

  • Wednesday, March 29 - 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 6 - 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Friday, April 14 - 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 19 - 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 27 - 1 to 3 p.m.

Council Adoption 

Changes are planned to go into effect starting in July 2024. Proposals will be voted on by City Council in the first half of 2024. 

Sign up for project email updates: Sign up for updates on how we set and adjust our rates through our free GovDelivery subscription service. These updates are the best way to stay informed about what's happening and what to expect. You can also sign up for updates on other projects and topics from Environmental Services.


The Preliminary Report contains the technical findings and rate and fee design options developed as part of the rate study.

The Environmental Scan Memorandum summarizes the preliminary findings of the Environmental Scan, including key themes that emerged from initial policy discussions and technical workshops.

This Utility Benchmarking Memorandum summarizes the results of the rate study utility benchmarking exercise. Environmental Services' rate-setting practices and rates were compared against nine benchmark utilities.

The Rate Study Packages Memorandum summarizes the numerous alternatives for designing sanitary sewer and stormwater user rates, system development charges, and stormwater credits.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a rate study?
A rate study is a financial evaluation process where a utility, such as Environmental Services, reviews its rate structure to make sure that the cost for ratepayers is proportional to their impact and use of the system.

What are Environmental Services' desired goals and outcomes?
Some of the desired goals and outcomes from this rate study and engagement process are to create a rate structure that:

  • recovers costs in proportion to the demands various customer classes place on the system;
  • considers the impacts on all Portlanders;
  • reflects Environmental Services' values;
  • is administratively feasible to implement;
  • addresses and considers affordability concerns;
  • removes barriers to accessing services and incentive programs.

What is Environmental Services proposing to change?
Environmental Services has compared our rate structure to industry benchmarks and best practices. Environmental Services will review sanitary sewer rates, stormwater rates, system development charges, other fees, and the Clean River Rewards discount program as part of this rate study process. Before formally proposing changes to our rate structure, we will provide options for potential revisions during the public engagement process.

Who should attend the technical discussions?
The technical discussions will cover many details and are meant to provide a deep dive into the technical analysis findings. Representatives from community organizations, commercial and industrial businesses, and other interested Environmental Services ratepayers may be interested in attending.

What are some other opportunities to learn more and give feedback?
All opportunities to learn more and give feedback will be posted under the Upcoming Engagement Opportunities section of this page. Environmental Services will host Technical Discussions, Informational Sessions, and Staff Office Hours. To stay up-to-date on the rate study process, you can sign up for updates on how we set and adjust our rates through our free GovDelivery subscription service.