At the Portland Water Bureau, we understand that water is life. We work tirelessly to build and maintain a water system that enhances public health and safety and contributes to the economic vitality and livability of the Portland metropolitan region.
Our 600+ employees strive every day to provide responsive service and careful stewardship of the critical infrastructure, natural resources, and funding entrusted to us.
Since 1895, the Water Bureau has delivered drinking water from the forests of Mount Hood to Portland-area faucets. Portland’s high-quality water comes primarily from the renowned Bull Run Watershed, a protected surface water supply that serves as a reliable source for the region. The Bull Run has two major reservoirs and can produce more than 200 million gallons of water each day.
The Columbia South Shore Well Field complements the Bull Run. The well field provides high-quality groundwater to augment our supply during high-demand summer months, and provides system resiliency in the event of any natural obstruction in the Bull Run Watershed, such as a landslide or fire.
From forest and well field to faucet, we cherish being the Portland area’s primary supplier of drinking water. We are dedicated to protecting the natural areas that provide an abundant supply of this life-sustaining resource.
What we do
We supply an average of 100 million gallons of water to nearly one million people every day. But what exactly does it take to keep high-quality water flowing to so many people?
- We protect and actively manage two water sources, the Bull Run Watershed and the Columbia South Shore Well Field. We carefully monitor conditions in both sources so we can respond proactively to potential water quality concerns or changes in the water supply.
- We treat and test our water to ensure it is safe and healthy to drink, and that it meets all state and federal drinking water standards. We are investing in a new filtration facility to keep our water safe and abundant for generations to come. Our water quality team can answer questions about our water or help you troubleshoot problems.
- We monitor, maintain, repair, and replace all the infrastructure that moves our water from the source to your tap. Our water system includes 2,200 miles of pipes, 64 storage tanks and reservoirs, nearly 15,000 fire hydrants, and thousands of meters and valves. We keep all those parts running by proactively replacing them as they age, keeping them clean, and responding quickly when they break.
- We invest in our water system to keep our infrastructure up to date and increase our ability to provide water during and after emergencies and in the face of a changing climate.For example, projects like the Willamette River Crossing and the Washington Park Reservoirs Improvement help increase our system’s ability to deliver water after earthquakes.
- We manage billing for the combined sewer, stormwater, water bill. This includes providing customer service and reading over 180,000 water meters for customers across the city. Water rates (the amount you pay for cubic feet of water used) pay for all the work we do to keep our water system running now and for years to come.
- We help Portlanders afford and control their water bills. We offer financial assistance and payment arrangements to people who are struggling to pay their sewer, stormwater, water bills. Our water efficiency team helps customers save money by controlling their water use.
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Where we serve water
Our service area covers parts of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.
Our infrastructure brings drinking water to nearly one million people every day. With water from the Bull Run Watershed and the Columbia South Shore Well Field, we serve about 225 square miles of the Portland area. This includes about 666,000 people in Portland itself.
We also serve water through wholesale contracts with 19 other water providers in the Portland area. These providers include cities, water districts, and private water companies, and together serve about 351,000 people.
The Portland Water Bureau is a member of the Regional Water Providers Consortium.
Our guiding statements
We serve excellent water every minute of every day.
The water our community loves is safe and abundant for generations to come.
Commitment to equity
We work to uproot systemic inequities and their impacts on our employees and the people we serve. We commit to the difficult—and essential—work of transforming Water Bureau policies, practices, and culture to better serve historically and currently oppressed communities.
- Honor our responsibility. We take part in a long legacy of careful stewardship of natural resources, infrastructure, and public trust. We never forget that water is essential.
- Serve our community. We know people depend on us. We are dedicated to listening, communicating, and acting with compassion.
- Work well. Our strength lies in the skills, expertise, and creativity our employees bring to work every day. We work hard, we work safely, and we adapt.
- Use money wisely. We work to control costs while maintaining high standards. We invest to make our water system stronger, more flexible, and better prepared for challenges ahead.
- Build relationships. We recognize the power of collaboration—with customers, coworkers, and partner organizations. Our relationships guide our work.
Our annual budget reflects our deep commitment to building lasting water infrastructure, maintaining those investments, and delivering long-term value to everyone who uses our water.
Every dollar we spend on infrastructure today is an investment in our city’s future that will pay dividends for generations to come. Guided by our Strategic Plan, which centers equity and affordability in our planning and operations, we strive to strike a balance between short-term impacts and long-term needs.
Each year, we develop our requested budget based on guidance from City Council and the Portland Utility Board and with specific instructions from the City Budget Office. We submit our budget early each calendar year. City Council and community members weigh in on the budget, and then the Mayor releases a proposed budget for the City, typically in April. City Council adopts the final City budget in June.
In our Strategic Plan, we propose solutions to a range of pressing issues for the Bureau, including water service affordability; the effects of climate change on our system; workforce and service equity; regional emergency preparedness and resilience; and a need for deeper community relationships. When we created this five-year plan, we worked to make it adaptable, durable, and more than just another document on a shelf.
Our staff worked with community members and staff from other City bureaus to create a risk-based plan that considered the full spectrum of our operations, from fixing main breaks to protecting our watershed, and from taking care of our staff to including equity in every aspect of our work.
This plan informs not just what work we do, but how we do our work.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion
We lead with equity as a guiding principle to our work. Leading with equity means centering the needs of community members who have been historically underserved and underrepresented. In Portland, these community members are overwhelmingly Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and people with disabilities. With policies, practices, and processes that improve outcomes for these specific groups, we are better able to serve all Portlanders.
2021-2025 Plan to Advance Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Gabriel Solmer, Director, became our director in 2020 after serving as deputy director and communications director. As the deputy, Gabe oversaw staff working on some of the bureau’s top priorities: equity, strategic communications, technology, and employee development. Gabe has led initiatives for bureau-wide policy and planning, developing and implementing the strategic plan, and improving employee engagement.
Her priorities as director include a commitment to the people we serve, with a focus on equity and anti-racism; transparency in decision-making, including an openness to new ideas; and a focus on planning, including climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Before joining the Water Bureau, Gabe served as chief of policy for a San Diego Councilmember and as legal director for San Diego Coastkeeper, a nonprofit in Southern California. She has a BS in biology and a BA in communications from the University of California at San Diego, and a law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law.
Edward Campbell, Director of Resource Protection and Planning, coordinates with federal, state, and local partners on source protection for both of the bureau’s drinking water sources. Edward also leads long-term planning and policy development work and bureau compliance with environmental regulations. He joined the bureau in 2004 as a deputy to the administrator and was selected to lead the Resource Protection and Planning Group in August 2005. Edward previously served as a senior policy advisor, sustainability coordinator, and chief of staff to City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Before that, he was communications director for Multnomah County Chair Beverly Stein. Edward holds a BA in English literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Virginia.
Jodie Inman, P.E., Chief Engineer, is responsible for overall management of the Engineering Services Group, its support functions, and its administration. The Engineering Services Group (ESG) supports the Water Bureau’s mission through delivery of the Capital Improvement Program and establishes and maintains engineering standards that support the maintenance, operability, and reliability of the water system. The ESG also works with developers, other City bureaus, and external agencies to ensure Water Bureau standards are met and coordinated for non-Water Bureau projects.
Jodie was drawn to the Water Bureau for its mission-driven work after more than a decade in private consulting. She began in the Engineering Planning Branch, where she supervised a professional and technical staff in support of project planning, asset management, and hydraulic modeling. From there, she worked as the Principal Engineer in the Design Section and oversaw plans and specifications for Water Bureau capital and maintenance projects. Jodie looks forward to the opportunity to support the Water Bureau in advancing its priorities, including equity, sustainability, and efficient project delivery.
Cecelia Huynh, Director of Finance and Support Services, manages financial planning, budgeting, rate setting, accounting, and support services. Cecelia has worked at the Water Bureau since 1990. She joined the Finance and Support Services group in 2002 as budget manager, then served as finance manager beginning in 2008. Cecelia became finance director in 2012. Cecelia has a BS in finance and management from Portland State University.
Quisha Light, Customer Services Director, leads the Water Bureau’s customer service operations, including the Field Services (meter readers and technicians and water inspectors), Billing, Contact Center, Customer Information Systems, Financial Assistance, and Customer Analysis teams. In her role, Quisha is working with her teams to ensure that the Water Bureau delivers consistent, high quality, and “never expected that” customer experiences now and in the future. She is also preparing her teams to deliver on the promise of smart meters that will help customers understand their water consumption, conserve water, and better manage their bills.
Before joining the Water Bureau, Quisha served as Manager of Product Development and Lifecycle Management at PGE, where she led teams responsible for transforming the clean energy products, programs, and services offered to PGE’s customers. Prior to PGE, Quisha practiced law in Tennessee. She received her bachelor of arts from the University of the South (Sewanee, TN) and her juris doctor from the University of Memphis School of Law.
Outside of work, Quisha is committed to community service and time with family and friends. She currently serves on the board of directors of Bridges to Change, Inc., Earth Advantage, and the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. She is also the president of the Portland Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Quisha enjoys reading a great book, watching movies with her family, and struggling through a round of golf with friends.
Ty Kovatch, Director of Maintenance and Construction, is responsible for maintenance, construction, and support functions, including repair and maintenance of the distribution system, the maintenance management system, purchasing and stores operation, the bureau’s fleet, and apprentice programs. Ty joined the City of Portland in 2002 as chief of staff to Commissioner Randy Leonard, who began overseeing the Water Bureau in 2005. Ty served as interim director of construction and land use permitting at the Bureau of Development Services before joining the Water Bureau in 2012. He has a BA in political science from Pacific University.
Chris Wanner, Director of Operations, leads the group that operates, maintains, and ensures compliance for the drinking water system for the City of Portland and nineteen wholesale systems. This includes water supply from both the Bull Run and Groundwater systems, treatment, water quality compliance, laboratory analysis, bureau-wide technology, transmission mains, terminal storage, pump stations and tanks, system analysis, security, and the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition control system. He has state certifications at the highest levels for both water distribution and water treatment and is the bureau’s direct responsible charge for compliance. He is a veteran non-commissioned officer, having served in US Army Aviation and maintains his state electrical license. Chris has served as incident commander on multiple large-scale events. Chris was appointed Director of Operations in 2005.
Julia Thompson, Director of Business Services, leads the Business Services group, which includes many of the bureau’s core employee-focused functions, including human resources, communications and outreach, equity and policy, employee experience and development, and strategic planning. Before joining Water, she consulted for a variety of government, corporate, and nonprofit clients doing organizational development, strategic planning, equitable employee engagement, executive communications, and management training. Julia also spent eleven years on the leadership team at the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, where she oversaw core functions including communications, human resources, equity and inclusion, finance, and people-operations and facilitated strategic planning. She also served as the BPS Communications Director, crafting and leading many citywide behavior-change campaigns. Her career includes managing international public relations, and social work and advocacy at community-based organizations. Julia holds a master of public administration from Portland State University and a bachelor of arts in communications from Evergreen State College. Julia loves karaoke, running, and spending time crafting with her daughters. She raises funds to support children living with cancer and their families.
Erich José Juan Pacheco (he/him/él), Equity and Policy Manager, works to create the conditions for all Portlanders have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive within the scope of the Water Bureau’s mission. Erich collaborates with diverse internal and external stakeholders to advance the bureau’s equity goals on topics such as strategic planning, asset management, emergency preparedness, data-informed decision making, community engagement, affordability and financial assistance, communications, employee recruitment and well-being, contracting, budgeting, performance management, capacity development, and conflict management. Prior to joining the Portland Water Bureau, Erich was the Director of Global Ocean Governance and Policy at Conservation International, where he advanced participatory and data-informed decision-making in ocean and coastal management. In addition, he worked on food security initiatives in West Africa, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea and later as a technical coordinator for the US Agency for International Development in Mali. Erich grew up in Venezuela, speaks fluent in English, Spanish, and French, and is learning to speak Mandarin. He earned a master’s degree in environmental policy and management from the Middlebury College Institute of International Studies and a bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations from the University of California, Davis.
Felicia Heaton (she/her), Communications Director, leads the bureau’s Communications & Outreach team, a part of the Business Services group. Felicia guides the bureau’s strategic communications initiatives and media engagement. Felicia, a born-and-raised Portlander, joined the Water family in 2018. She spent the first fifteen years of her career in news and broadcasting, her byline and voice associated with The Oregonian, News Radio 1190 KEX, 620 KPOJ, Portland’s K103, and ABC News. Her coverage primarily focused on government and politics, but often included stories that grabbed national headlines—some serious (Oregon National Guard deployments, Occupy Portland, the search for Kyron) and some not so serious (the occasional American Idol audition and many interviews with celebrities, Molly Ringwald a favorite). Felicia transitioned to government work in 2014, serving as the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management’s first community outreach liaison and Deputy Public Information Officer. Off the clock, Felicia enjoys volunteering for the veteran-led disaster response organization Team Rubicon and can occasionally be found on the stage, singing some tunes with the Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra.