Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Clean River Rewards

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Stormwater Management and Eligibility

Q. I have a large tree on my property, how do I measure it?
For most people, counting the number of trees on your property that are 15 feet or taller will be the best option. However, using the canopy cover option will be best if you have one or two large trees or a large property with many large trees. 

Calculating a tree's canopy cover means figuring out how much of the tree's branches cover the ground. To do this, use the equation for finding the area of a circle, πr2.

First, place a tape measure on the ground under the tree. Put one end of the tape measure against the tree's trunk and extend the other until it is below the end of the farthest point of the branches. Record this number in feet. For example, if the measurement is 125 inches, record it as 10.42 feet (125 ÷ 12 = 10.42). This number will be the radius (r) in the equation. Example: π10.422 = 341.1

You can use the following equation if you don't have a calculator with pi (π) or the squared function. Example: 

  • 3.1459  x  (r measurement)  x  (r measurement)
  • 3.1459 x 10.42 x 10.42 = 341.1

Q: Where can I get more information about how to let my stormwater runoff soak safely into the ground on my property? A: Visit Managing Rain on Your Property or our Technical Assistance for Drainage Issues on Your Property page.

Q: What do I need to do to maintain my stormwater management facilities, so they keep working effectively?  
A: Visit How to Care for a Stormwater Facility on Your Property.

Q: Does all my stormwater runoff have to soak into the ground on my property to qualify for Clean River Rewards?  
A: No. If some of the runoff soaks into the ground on your property and some drains to the sewer system or street, you can still sign up for a partial discount. If you are a commercial or industrial customer and your property's stormwater flows through a private outfall into the Willamette River or Columbia Slough, you are eligible for a discount if that stormwater is first treated before it is discharged.

Q: If all of my stormwater runoff safely soaks into the ground on my property, why do I only get a discount for some of the stormwater charges? Why can't I get a discount on all the stormwater charges?
A: A portion of your stormwater charge pays for the city to safely manage the stormwater running off your property. This is the portion of the charge the discount applies to. However, a large portion of your stormwater charge reflects the cost to the city of managing stormwater from public spaces like streets and sidewalks and paying for debt service (payments on previously completed projects). The City must continue to install and maintain pipes, green streets, and underground facilities to service the public spaces. A portion of the stormwater charge also supports programs that help keep stormwater pollution from entering Portland's rivers and streams.  

Q: My property is in a Drainage District (also known as the managed floodplain of the Urban Flood Safety Water Quality District). Am I eligible for a Clean River Rewards discount?  
A: Yes. Starting July 1, 2024, properties within a Drainage District (Multnomah County Drainage District, Peninsula #1 Drainage District, or Peninsula #2 Drainage District) are eligible to register for a Clean Rivers Rewards discount. Since properties within a Drainage District are newly eligible to register, there will be a registration grace period until December 31, 2024. Discounts calculated on registrations received by December 31, 2024, for properties within a Drainage district will be applied retroactively to July 1, 2024. This one-time grace period applies only to properties within a Drainage District.

Q: I have only one very large tree on my property. Do I qualify for the Clean River Rewards tree discount?  
A: Possibly. For most people, counting the number of trees on your property that are 15 feet or taller (about as tall as a 2-story house) will be the best option. However, if you have one or two really big trees, then using the tree canopy measurement might be best. The trees must be on your private property and not street trees.  

Q: I have an overwater structure, or I have overwater structures on my property. Are they eligible for a discount?
A: The square footage of overwater structures is not included in the stormwater billing area used to calculate the stormwater charge. Because that area is not billed a stormwater charge, management of stormwater from those areas is not considered when calculating a Clean River Rewards discount.

Q: Do I need a permit to build a stormwater management facility?  
A: Possibly. Simple solutions, such as disconnecting your downspout or minor changes to your landscape, may not need a City permit. However, if you need underground piping, major excavation, structure alterations, or have steep slopes and poorly draining soils, you may need a permit to install a stormwater management solution. Find more information about designing, building, and maintaining a variety of stormwater solutions on the Managing Rain on Your Property page. When in doubt about permits, contact the Development Services Center.

Q: Will I need to upgrade existing non-conforming development on my property when I get a permit for my stormwater management facility?  
A: No. Stormwater management improvements alone will not trigger requirements to upgrade an existing development if it does not meet current zoning requirements. This allows property owners to add stormwater facilities to their property without the burden of bringing the entire site into compliance with the City's zoning code (City Code 33.258.070.D.2.a.4).

Receiving the Discount

Q: Why do I get a slightly different number when I calculate my Clean River Rewards discount on my changeover bill?
A: The discount percentage on your bill is rounded to the nearest whole number for display purposes. For example, your bill might show a 23% discount, but the actual discount used in the billing system is 23.45%. The precise percentage is used to calculate the dollar value of your discount. The dollar amount of the discount displayed on your bill is accurate.
This rounding difference will only be noticeable on changeover bills (the first bill customers receive after the July 1, 2024, rate changes) and for those receiving a partial Clean River Rewards discount.

Q: I registered for Clean River Rewards a while ago. I thought I was receiving a 100 percent discount, but now it's showing up as 35 percent on my bill. What happened?
A: The value of the discount hasn't changed, just the way it's displayed on the bill. The program's maximum discount is now 35 percent of the total stormwater charges, which is equal to what was 100 percent of the on-site charge.

On July 1, 2024, the Clean River Rewards program was updated as part of a larger update to the way the City bills for stormwater. If you registered for a Clean River Rewards discount before July 1, 2024, your discount percentage will be automatically updated when changes are made to the way stormwater is billed. If you currently receive a 100 percent discount, expect to see a 35 percent discount, which has the same monetary value.

Q: The stormwater runoff from my property has been safely soaking into the ground on my property for a while; can I get a credit for fees I've paid in the past?  
A: No. The discount only starts after you've submitted a completed registration form.  

Q: I just set up a new water, sewer, and stormwater account but haven't gotten a bill with my new account number yet. Can I register for Clean River Rewards?
A: Yes. Please contact Customer Service at either (503) 823-7770 or PWBCustomerService@portlandoreg… and ask for your new account number to complete your Clean River Rewards registration.

Q: My account is billed quarterly, but I have signed up to receive monthly bill statements. I registered for Clean River Rewards, but I don't see the discount on my bill yet. 
A: The discount will appear on the next statement that covers the period of time when you registered.

Q: I changed the name on my water, sewer, and stormwater account, and I don't see my Clean River Rewards discount on my bill anymore. What can I do?
A: The discount is linked to the unique number assigned to each water, sewer, and stormwater account. When the name on the account changes, the account number is changed too. Please register again for the discount using your updated account number.

Q: I'm a renter. Can I register for a Clean River Rewards discount?
A: If you have a water, sewer, and stormwater account with the City of Portland and are responsible for paying the bill, you can register for a Clean River Rewards discount.

Q: I own a property with tenants. Can I register for Clean River Rewards?
A: If you have an active water, sewer, and stormwater account with the City, you can register for Clean River Rewards. Once you do this, you will not have to re-register each time a tenant moves out, and responsibility for the bills comes back to you.

The Clean River Rewards discount is linked to the account holder's bill. If your tenant is the account holder, they can register for a Clean River Rewards discount when they open an account.

Q: I own a property with tenants. I was previously receiving a Clean River Rewards discount, but it looks like my discount has ended. 
A: When updates were made to the Clean River Rewards program on July 1, 2024, the way the discount percentage displayed on the bill changed. This change was made automatically for all accounts that were actively being billed at the time. 
If your account was inactive on July 1, 2024, the Clean River Rewards discount was not automatically updated. 
If your account is active, you can re-register for the updated Clean River Rewards program. Once you do this, you will not have to re-register each time a tenant moves out, and responsibility for the bills will return to you.

Q: Does the Clean River Rewards program expire?  
A: The program will remain in effect indefinitely until or unless modified by Portland City Council.

Q: Are there other financial assistance services to help me with my water bill?  
A: Information about financial assistance services, contact information, and FAQs can be found on the Sewer, Stormwater, and Water Bill Financial Assistance page.  

Q: Where can I find the administrative rules governing the Clean River Rewards program?
A: Information about the administrative rules is in the City Code.

Q: What can I do if I disagree with a decision made by the City about my participation in the Clean River Rewards discount program?
A: You can request an administrative review on the decision about how a requirement applies to your specific property or situation, but not that the requirement exists. Specific items that are not reviewable include a facial challenge, Environmental Services's authority to recover costs, issue associated administrative fees or reverse accounts for a violation, the maximum discount amount or its basis, and Clean River Rewards discount program eligibility requirements.

Information on requesting an Administrative Review can be found on the Request an Administrative Review page.