Big Pipe Tracker: See how the Big Pipes prevent combined sewer overflows

Photo shows two kayakers paddling on river with large concrete bridge piers in background.
Is it raining? Here you can track how the Big Pipe Project is preventing combined sewer overflows to the Willamette River.

The tracker shows how the Big Pipes fill up during wet weather. Levels will rise as two giant pipes on either side of the Willamette River collect, store, and send a mix of stormwater and sewage to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Before the project’s completion in 2011, that mixture would have overflowed to the river. Today, overflows are rare, and the river is almost always clean enough for river recreation.

Track Levels Now

 Data are updated every 15 minutes, with up to a 45-minute lag time.  

Track Levels over 72-hours

The Details

Levels are at 0-5%

On most days, the Big Pipes are not needed during dry weather or light rain. Portland’s regular network of more than 2,500 miles of pipes has enough capacity to send all sewage and stormwater to the treatment plant. However, plant operators may use the Big Pipes as part of daily operations, so you may see the level up to 5 percent full at times.

Portland's green infrastructure (trees, rain gardens, and wetlands) provide additional natural stormwater solutions—letting plants and soil absorb rainwater, and reducing the amount that gets sent into pipes.  

During heavier rains

You will see the level rise on this graphic, reflecting how full the Big Pipes are. The amount you see is sent to the treatment plant. Before the Big Pipe Project's completion in 2011, this amount would have overflowed to the Willamette River. Indeed, overflows used to occur regularly—about 50 times a year. 

During severe storms

During severe storms, the Big Pipes may reach capacity. Levels will approach 100 percent. On rare occasions (an estimated four times a year), a combined sewer overflow may occur. If that happens, Environmental Services will issue a combined sewer overflow advisory warning the public to avoid contact with the river for 48 hours.

Overall, you can see here how the Big Pipes make a big difference to Willamette River water quality.