Environmental Services' 2023-24 Rate Study Process

On this page, you will learn about the work Environmental Services completed to update how we charge our rates so that sewer and stormwater rates accurately reflect the cost of serving each customer.
On this page

Why did Environmental Services conduct a rate study?

Investing in a healthier and more resilient Portland is a priority for Environmental Services. The miles of pipes, pump stations, and treatment facilities that make up our sanitary sewer and stormwater system safeguard public health and the environment and promote economic development while fostering community and climate resilience.

Per the 2023-24 budget, Environmental Services will allocate $727 million to operate, maintain, and repair this vital infrastructure, some of which was constructed over a century ago. Given the system's age and the evolving regulatory landscape, significant investments in upgrades and repairs are essential to meet regulatory standards, accommodate our growing population, and adapt to climate change.

As part of our commitment to ensuring sustainable and efficient service delivery, Portland City Council passed an ordinance in 2018 that directed Environmental Services to conduct a rate study. Rate studies are typically conducted every five to eight years. However, Environmental Services' last rate study dates back to 2005, making this study particularly important.

What is a rate study?

A rate study is a routine technical analysis that is meant to ensure that the rates a utility charges accurately reflect the cost of serving each customer. As our investments in our shared infrastructure change, we also need to adapt how we charge our customers for services. Rate studies are regarded as a best practice in the utility industry and are conducted on a regular basis. Typically, they involve an assessment of spending, a comparison to peer agencies, and recommendations for ensuring that rates are aligned with costs of service for each customer.

The complete rate study and supporting documents can be found in the additional resources and documents section of this page.

What is changing?

On November 29, 2023, Portland City Council voted to adopt a suite of recommended changes to how BES charges rates. These changes will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

The upcoming changes are explained in more detail on the Upcoming Changes to Environmental Services Rates and Charges page.

How did we involve the public?

Environmental Services staff conducted extensive outreach with customers and the community to validate the rate study recommendations. This community feedback was instrumental in refining the recommendations brought to City Council. Overall, Environmental Services staff engaged with hundreds of individuals and organized over 40 outreach events.

Feedback from community organizations, neighborhood associations, business district representatives, environmental advocates, the development community, and the Portland Utility Board revealed widespread support for the proposed changes. Some of the presentation slides, video recordings, and summaries from this outreach are available below.

Please note, all presentations were delivered in the spring and summer of 2023. Some of the numbers and information presented in the presentations vary from the final rate changes. Please visit Upcoming Changes to Environmental Services Rates and Charges for the most up-to-date information.

Technical Discussion Sessions

In March of 2023, representatives from community organizations, commercial and industrial businesses, and other interested Environmental Services ratepayers participated in technical discussions about how customers are charged for our services.

This document shows the presentation slides used during the Environmental Services Rate Study Technical Discussions Sessions held on March 21 and 23, 2023.
This document shows the presentation slides used during the Environmental Services Rate Study Technical Discussions Sessions held on March 21 and 23, 2023.

Other informational presentations

On June 14, 2023, Environmental Services staff held an informational presentation and discussion session with ratepayers in the Drainage Districts.
On August 17, 2023, Environmental Services staff gave a presentation on the Rate Study to the Development Review Advisory Committee. This presentation focused on Service Development Charges (SDCs) and other Connection charges.
Empleados de BES presentó a un grupo de usuarios sobre el studio de tarifas en Español. Las láminas están bajos de la presentación.

Additional resources and documents

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.

December 6 City Council Session
On December 6, 2023, City Council approved Ordinance 191537, which was agenda item 1008. Documents from the City Council session are archived online. 

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