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Chapter 21.16 Rates and Charges

21.16.010 Annual Water Rates.

The Portland City Council approves and sets water rates for each fiscal year that will provide an estimated income to equal expenses and debt service relating to water bonds. (Section 11-105 of the Portland City Charter). The Bureau prepares the proposed annual water rate ordinance and the City Attorney reviews the ordinance. The Bureau files the ordinance with the Auditor not later than May 20 of each year.

21.16.020 Annual Statement To Be Filed.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 189256, effective December 21, 2018.)  An annual detailed statement of its income and expenditures shall be made and signed by the Administrator and shall be filed with the Auditor, who shall preserve the same among Auditor’s Office files.  This annual report shall include a statement of the financial condition and pertinent engineering data of the Bureau of Water Works.

21.16.030 Billing Responsibility.

(Replaced by Ordinance No. 182053; amended by Ordinance Nos. 185521 and 189256, effective December 21, 2018.)  The ratepayer responsible for payment of water charges shall be the property owner as verified in county tax records, the water user occupying the property, or the party otherwise in possession or control of the property.  A property owner may become obligated for charges for furnishing water to the user by accepting responsibility for payment thereof or by agreement with the Portland Water Bureau.

Water charges are billed daily, regardless of whether the property has no structure on it or if the structure is occupied or vacant. The property owner, or the party otherwise in possession or control of the property, is responsible for all water charges while a property is vacant.

When a single meter serves multiple dwellings or living units at a property, the property owner(s) shall be responsible for the charges related to water use at the premises unless a party who is not the owner confirms with the Bureau the acceptance of that responsibility in a manner that conforms with Bureau policy.

Either a property owner or a renter may notify the Bureau of the date to open or close an account for a renter. The Bureau will honor the first date on which the request was received to open or close the account. The Bureau will change this date if agreed to by all other affected parties. The Bureau will not mediate a dispute between landlord and renter regarding the dates when billing responsibility changes.  The property owner is responsible for all water charges when no renter has accepted responsibility for water charges. If neither a renter nor owner notifies the Bureau that a renter has left tenancy and the Bureau determines by a visit to the property that the property is vacant, water charges shall commence on that date and shall be applied to the owner.

Where a ratepayer has a delinquent bill for one premises, this delinquency shall be a charge against this ratepayer (for water obtained) at any of their other premises served by the Bureau.

When a property is sold, the seller is responsible for all water charges until the date the buyer is entitled to possession. If there is a dispute between the seller and the buyer about the date of possession, the Bureau will use Multnomah County taxation records to verify the legal recording date.

21.16.040 Delinquent Utility Bills.

(Amended by Ordinance Nos. 179978, 182053 and 189256, effective December 21, 2018.)

A.  The Portland Water Bureau shall have the authority to shut off water service to any property when any charge to a ratepayer’s account has not been paid within 10 days after that charge is due and payable.

Before water service is shut off for nonpayment the Portland Water Bureau shall give written notice to the service address provided by the water user as well as to the mailing address of the property owner or the party who has agreed with the Bureau to accept responsibility for payment.  Such notice shall state the anticipated date when the water will be shut off, as well as informing the ratepayer of the right to request an administrative review, and the procedure for requesting the review, to challenge the shut off.

It is the obligation of the water user or responsible party to ensure that the Water Bureau has the most current and accurate address for the user or responsible party.  There is no obligation on the part of the Bureau to determine if the address provided is the best or the most current address.

Once service is shut off, water shall not be provided again until all outstanding obligations for water provided to that user have been paid, or arrangements for payments have been made with the Water Bureau, including additional charges as established in the annual water rate ordinance.

The Portland Water Bureau may, but is not obligated to, allow for continuation of water service for a specified period of time prior to payment of outstanding charges if it is determined that the lack of water will endanger health or cause substantial hardship.  The continuation of water service may also be allowed when the delinquent ratepayer is willing to enter into a payment arrangement satisfactory to the Bureau for payment of all delinquent amounts on that ratepayer’s account.  However, if the charges are not paid as agreed, then the water may again be shut off and not turned on again until the outstanding charges are paid in full or arrangements for payments are made with the Bureau.

The Portland Water Bureau may institute legal proceedings and contract with third parties for the collection of delinquent water bills and charges.  The Bureau may require that a deposit be made with the Bureau to ensure payment of future water bills and charges. 

B.  When the delinquent bill includes user charges for sanitary sewer and stormwater management services, the Portland Water Bureau shall collect such charges pursuant to Section 21.16.040.

When the delinquent bill does not include charges for water service, delinquent user service charges for sanitary sewer and stormwater management services shall be collected by any legal means pursuant to Sections 3.24.020 and 3.24.030.

21.16.070 Work Orders.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) Work orders for main extensions, service connections, and meter installations for which a deposit or charges are or may be made under this Title, shall be established by the Engineering Services Group of the Bureau.

21.16.080 Dates and Places of Payment.

(Amended by Ordinance Nos. 179978 and 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) Charges for water use will be computed, and bills mailed, on a schedule determined by the Portland Water Bureau. The billing schedule will be kept on file by the Bureau. The water bill, with a due date, will be payable at either the Bureau or at authorized locations established by written agreement with the Bureau.

21.16.090 Deposit and Application.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) An application, deposit, or both, for water service may be required from all new ratepayers, ratepayers whose service has been shut off for nonpayment, or those persons with unsatisfactory credit who are requesting service. Unsatisfactory credit is defined as not meeting credit and collection industry standards or having service shut off for nonpayment of water or sewer charges within the past year. Failure to provide either the application, deposit, or both within the due date specified by the Portland Water Bureau may result in discontinuance of service.

21.16.100 Deposit of Money Received.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) All monies collected or received by the Portland Water Bureau for the use and consumption of water or otherwise will be deposited with the bank designated by the Treasurer of the City. The Treasurer shall keep the same separate and apart from the other funds of the City in funds to be known as the Water Fund and the Water Construction Fund, and pay it out only on checks signed by the Mayor, countersigned by the Auditor, and not otherwise.

21.16.110 Bureau May Contract for Collection of Revenues.

The Commissioner-In-Charge of the Bureau and the Auditor are hereby authorized to enter into contracts for periods not to exceed 5 years with such persons or corporations as may be selected by the Administrator for the collection of water revenue for the City. The contracts shall provide for compensation for collection and may cover certain expenses related to revenue collection. The contracts shall require that a bond be furnished by the collection agent or the City, at the City's option, the premium for such bond may be paid for by the City. The bond shall be conditioned upon the performance of such contract, and shall be in such form as may be satisfactory to the Administrator and the City Attorney.

21.16.120 Collections, Adjustments and Refunds.

(Amended by Ordinance Nos. 179978, 182053 and 189256, effective December 21, 2018.)  Water user charges will be computed monthly, bimonthly or quarterly and billed by the Portland Water Bureau.

All payments for water user charges shall be made to, and adjustments and refunds made by, the Portland Water Bureau.  The Bureau shall ensure that charges and credits are posted to ratepayer accounts.

A.  The Portland Water Bureau may make adjustments, pay refunds or waive fees and charges where it is deemed necessary for the proper conduct of the business of the Bureau.  Adjustments shall be in the form of credits or additional charges to an active account.  When the adjustment is a credit to a ratepayer who has no active account, a refund shall be issued if the ratepayer can be located.

When a billing error occurs, the Bureau may authorize an adjustment of the water service account to correct the error.  Adjustments may not exceed a period of three years from the date the Bureau received notice of the error.  Eligibility for an adjustment on an account shall end six months after the date a final bill was issued for that account.

If a current ratepayer was not billed because the Bureau was not notified of the ratepayer’s responsibility for payment, the Bureau shall issue the bill from the date the ratepayer became responsible for the bill as described in Section 21.16.030 Billing Responsibility.

B.  Water system ratepayers who receive a back billing or a delayed billing will be offered the opportunity to pay the balance due over a period of time based on current City collection policies.

C.  The Portland Water Bureau may establish administrative rules with the Bureau of Environmental Services governing the adjustment, refund or waiver of user charges including but not limited to sanitary sewer and stormwater management services.

21.16.130 Adjustments on Account of Leaks.

(Amended by Ordinance Nos. 179978 and 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) The Portland Water Bureau may make adjustments to water use charges where a leak exists in the water system on the property side of the meter. Reasonable efforts must be made within 30 days after the leak was detected to locate the leak and initiate repairs and have repairs completed within 90 days of notification.

21.16.140 Authority to Estimate Bills.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) When a meter fails to register accurately, the Portland Water Bureau shall charge for water based on the historic usage of water at the premises. Estimated bills may also be issued if a meter reading cannot be recorded because the meter is inaccessible due to, but not limited to, inclement weather; overgrowth or other obstruction; failure to locate; or illegal usage bypasses the meter. Adjustments to the estimated bill shall be made consistent with the provisions of Section 21.16.120 "Collections, Adjustments and Refunds."

21.16.150 Testing Meters.

(Amended by Ordinance Nos. 182053 and 189256, effective December 21, 2018.)  When any water ratepayer makes a complaint that the bill for any particular billing period is excessive, the Portland Water Bureau will, upon request, reread the meter and inspect the service for leaks.  Should the ratepayer then desire that the meter be tested, the ratepayer shall make a deposit as prescribed in the annual water rate ordinance to cover the cost of making the test.  If the tested meter is found to register 3% or more higher than the actual water flow through the meter, the deposit will be refunded and the Bureau shall estimate the excess consumption and make an adjustment in the form of a credit on the bill immediately preceding and/or the current bill.  In such instances the Bureau shall repair or replace the meter.  If the tested meter is found to read within 3 % of the actual water flow through the meter, the Bureau will keep the deposit to cover the expense of the test.

21.16.160 Service Installation Fees.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 189256, effective December 21, 2018.)  The fees for installing and/or activating water service up to and including 1‑inch in size shall be as provided in the annual water rate ordinance and shall be paid prior to service installation.

The fees for installing services greater than 1-inch shall be based on the Bureau’s costs plus overhead, as provided in the finance regulations, Title 5 of the Code of the City of Portland.  The applicant may choose to pay either a set price based on the Bureau’s estimate or the actual cost of the installation.  If the applicant accepts the Bureau’s estimate as the set price these costs must be paid before the Bureau will perform the work.  After a set price has been established, the Bureau will not refund or adjust installation charges unless changes in installation or location are requested by the applicant.

If the applicant chooses to pay the actual costs plus overhead, the applicant shall submit a deposit equal to the estimated cost before the Bureau will begin the work.  When the estimated cost differs from the actual for labor, materials, and overhead the deficit shall be charged to the applicant or any excess payment shall be returned to the applicant.

In addition to the service installation fees, an applicant for new service must pay the System Development Charge, as described in Section 21.16.170 “System Development Charge" and as set in the annual water rate ordinance.  If the service branch has been installed by a developer as allowed in Section 21.12.110 “Installation of Service Pipes from the Main to the Property Line," the applicant will be charged for only the applicable system development charge and any charge for service activation as set in the annual water rate ordinance.

21.16.170 System Development Charge.

(Amended by Ordinance Nos. 182053, 183448, 189050 and 189323, effective December 19, 2018.)  An applicant for a new water service connection or increase in the size of an old connection within the City limits shall pay a system development charge.  The System Development Charge will be based upon calculations provided for in the annual water rate ordinance.  New Water Service Connections solely for fire protection purposes and affordable housing pursuant to Section 30.01.095, shall be exempt from payment of the System Development Charge.  A System Development Charge shall not be assessed for a temporary service (see Section 21.12.090 “Permit for Temporary Service") or for mass shelters, short-term housing, and certain accessory dwelling units (See City Code Section 17.14.070).

21.16.180 Water Connection Assistance.

(Replaced by Ordinance No. 181715; amended by Ordinance No. 183447, effective July 1, 2010.)  The City may provide water connection assistance to eligible property owners based on criteria established each year by City Council in the Annual Rate Ordinance.  The Administrator may adopt administrative rules and procedures necessary to implement the water connection assistance criteria described in the Annual Rate Ordinance. 

The City may grant payment deferrals and loans to property owners to finance City water system development charges, as provided in City Code Chapter 17.14 Financing Systems Development Charges.  The Administrator may adopt administrative rules and procedures necessary to implement the deferred payment and loan programs.

21.16.190 Charges for Water Used through a Fire Protection Service.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) No charge shall be made for water used to extinguish a fire. Except as otherwise noted in this section, a property owner may use water from the City to test the fire protection system. Water used to pressure test a fire protection system will be registered on detector check metered firelines, or estimated on unmetered firelines. Flow testing a fire protection system requires that the Bureau install a metering device on the service to register the water used.
Water used for testing a service for fire protection shall be charged at the commodity rates prescribed in the Water Rate Ordinance, as annually adopted by the City Council. Sewer charges will normally not be assessed for water used to test a fire protection system. Testing that results in a volume of water that is determined to have a measurable impact on the sewer system may subject that service to a sewer charge.
Testing of a fire service may not be conducted in a manner that will degrade the public water system. Flow testing through a fire service shall not reduce the pressure in the main less than 50% of maximum static pressure and shall in no case reduce the pressure below 30 lbs per sq. in. In this regard, prior to testing large flows, the individual conducting the test shall consult with the Bureau to determine limits of flow and to develop methods that may mitigate any detrimental effects on the public water system. Repeated testing of a fire service that violates a Bureau-approved testing program or affects the average daily water system conditions by more than allowable will result in a reclassification of the type of service and the collection of a System Development Charge.

21.16.200 Charges for Unauthorized Use of Fire Protection Service.

(Amended by Ordinance No. 182053, effective August 15, 2008.) A fire service is to be used to extinguish a fire, and is specifically not to be used for domestic, maintenance, or irrigation purposes. (See Section 21.12.220 "Fire Protection Service.")
There are progressively increasing charges for unauthorized use of water supplied through firelines. There is a commodity charge of three times the normal rate for water for the first unauthorized use, and ten times the normal rate for all later unauthorized uses. If unauthorized use continues, the Bureau shall install a full-flow meter and bill the property owner for the full costs of the meter as well as System Development Charges. These policies and procedures are further detailed in the annual water rate ordinance.

21.16.220 Billing and Collection for Others by Contract.

The Bureau may bill and collect for user fees and services provided by other public and private entities as established by contracts approved by City Council. All revenue collected for other entities will be deposited in separate accounts.

Upcoming and Recent Changes

Ordinance Number 190228

Effective Date

Ordinance No. 190228 code changes not reflected in online code yet.

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