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About us

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We serve excellent water every minute of every day.
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About us

Logo of Portland water bureau depicting the Benson Bubblers

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.

Our guiding statements

Mission

We serve excellent water every minute of every day.

Vision

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.

Values

  • 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.

Where we serve water

Our service area covers parts of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.

Illustrated map with the land of our drinking water sources in green, blue pipes running from them into town and throughout the Portland metro area.

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 650,000 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 350,000 people.

The Portland Water Bureau is a member of the Regional Water Providers Consortium.

Budget

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.

Read the full budget here

Strategic Plan

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.

Leadership

Gabriel Solmer, Director, became our director after four years as deputy 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, an openness to new ideas, and a focus on planning.

Before joining the Water Bureau, Gabe served as chief of policy for a San Diego Councilmember and as legal director for 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 makes sure the bureau complies 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.

Teresa Elliott, Director of Engineering, is responsible for overall management of engineering, its support functions, and administration of the Capital Improvement Plan, including planning, design, and construction. Teresa also leads the bureau’s emergency management. Teresa joined the bureau in 1996 and led the bureau’s water storage program to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule. A registered professional civil engineer, Teresa has 30 years of experience leading and managing engineering work. Teresa has BS in civil engineering.

Cecelia Huynh, Director of Finance and Support Services, manages financial planning, budgeting, rate setting, accounting, and support services. Cecelia has served 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.

Kathryn Koch, Director of Customer Services, manages account services, billing and collection, quality assurance, meter reading, meter maintenance and repair, and data processing. Kathy joined the bureau in 1990. She serves as a member of the National American Water Works Association Customer Service Committee and the Pacific Northwest Customer Service Committee, and is founding board member of the international Water Customer Care Forum. Kathy holds a BA in English literature from Pacific University. Kathy has received the AWWA Pacific Northwest Section Heart and Soul Award and the AWWA National Management and Leadership Division Exceptional Service Award.

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, is responsible for operations and maintenance of the Bull Run and groundwater supply systems. This includes water treatment, water quality compliance, laboratory analysis, transmission mains, terminal storage, pump stations and tanks, system analysis, and the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control system. He has state certifications at the highest levels for both water distribution (WD4) and water treatment (WT4) and is the bureau’s direct responsible charge (DRC) for compliance. He is a veteran Non-Commissioned Officer with the US Army and maintains his state electrical license. Chris has served as Incident Commander on multiple large-scale events and is the vice-chair of the Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (ORWARN). Chris was appointed director of operations in 2005.