Benefits of Filtration
We are building a new drinking water filtration facility to keep our water safe and abundant for the nearly one million people who depend on it today and for future generations. The Bull Run Filtration Project is needed to comply with federal and state drinking water regulations and remove the disease-causing microorganism Cryptosporidium from our water supply.
The Bull Run Filtration Project will benefit customers by:
- Removing microorganisms to make our water safer
- Providing consistent, high-quality drinking water
- Building new, seismically resilient infrastructure
- Allowing the Bull Run supply to be used after an emergency, such as a fire, landslide, or major storm
- Preparing us to respond to future regulations
It takes about 10 years to plan, design, and build a drinking water filtration facility of this size. We completed the initial facility planning phase in 2019 and are currently working to design the new filtration facility. We need to complete the project by September 30, 2027, to meet our compliance agreement with the Oregon Health Authority.
The project includes three significant phases:
- Planning (2018-2020): We identified the type, size, and location of filtration needed, as well as how the new facility will work with the rest of our water system.
- Design (2020-2022): We are currently working on preliminary design for the facility and will later develop detailed design drawings and specifications that tell the construction contractor exactly what to build.
- Construction and Commissioning (2023-2027): A construction contractor will build the improvements and get the new filtration facility running (commissioning) to verify everything is working as planned.
We completed two years of planning work and community engagement to guide design of the new filtration facility.
- In 2018, Portland City Council identified the facility location and size, and the filtration technology best-suited for Portland's drinking water:
- Facility Location: The new facility will be located just outside the Bull Run Watershed in rural Multnomah County. We have owned the property for decades and have been operating facilities in the area for more than 100 years. The site was selected because it met all of the siting criteria, including considerations related to maximizing gravity flow, connecting to existing and future pipelines, having sufficient space and suitable geologic conditions for construction, and meeting the compliance schedule. Visit our Site Advisory Group page to learn more about our commitment to being a good neighbor and ongoing outreach.
- Facility Size: The new facility will have a capacity of 145 million gallons per day. This capacity continues Bull Run as our main water supply, meets water demands on most days in most years, and manages costs by matching filtration facility size to expected water use.
- Filtration Technology: The new facility will use granular media filtration, where the water is filtered through natural materials such as charcoal, sand, or gravel. This is a proven technology used at almost all of the large filtration facilities in North America. Granular media filtration provides excellent water quality, is flexible in adapting to different water conditions and new requirements, and fits on the filtration facility site with room to meet future needs.
- In 2019, following those initial Council decisions, we completed extensive planning and engineering analysis to guide design of the new facility. These efforts are documented in the Draft Filtration Facility Overview, which serves as the bridge between planning and design.
- Also in 2019, Council approved Resolution 37460 which provides a set of priority values and expectations to guide project design and implementation. The recommended project option was based on feedback from the community, Public Utility Board, and Council.
Curious how we know what treatment is right for our water? Learn more about how our water professionals are using a mini filtration facility called a pilot plant to test which treatment alternatives are best-suited for Bull Run water and help inform design of the future full-scale facility.
We are currently working on design of the new filtration facility, which is expected to take about two years. Throughout the design process, we will continue to use values criteria developed with input from community engagement and our staff to guide project decisions.
Priority values include:
- Water Quality: Safe reliable drinking water
- Resilience: Provide a more resilient system
- Value & Cost: Best value for customers
- Community & Environment: Sensitive to community and environment impacts
As design of the new filtration facility and associated pipelines progresses, we will continue to share information about project progress and actively gather input from the community to inform project decisions. Visit the Bull Run Filtration Site Advisory Group page to catch up on the latest discussions and provide your input to help shape design of the new facility.
Wondering what a filtration facility looks like? Check out our short tour highlight videos from the Joint Water Commission and City of Wilsonville water treatment facilities right here in Oregon.
We expect construction of the filtration facility to take four to five years and construction of the pipelines to take about three years. Both projects could start as soon as late 2022 and are required to be complete by September 30, 2027. We will have more details to share about construction activities and the schedule after we complete the designs and select the contractors.
Good Neighbor Commitment
We are committed to being a good neighbor throughout the life of the project. This includes working with members of the Bull Run Filtration Site Advisory Group to build towards a Good Neighbor Agreement that will help make sure neighbors’ concerns are considered through design and construction and into ongoing operations. We are also sharing information with neighbors through mailers, an e-newsletter, doorhangers, information sessions, “backyard” visits, and other outreach events.
We have been operating facilities in the area for more than 100 years and provide water to a number of local water utilities through our wholesale contracts. The almost 95-acre site where the future facility will be built can accommodate a buffer between the facility and our neighbors, and we are taking steps to make sure the facility is well adapted to its rural setting.
Ongoing Community Outreach
An almost 10-year project provides opportunity for many different types of engagement--both in-person and online. From public opinion research to community events, we are keeping our community informed and involved. Sign up to receive regular project updates through our e-newsletter, visit our events tab to see upcoming opportunities, or reach out with ideas or feedback. We look forward to staying connected.
These investments in the future of Portland’s drinking water will be funded through business and residential customer rates and by borrowing money over time. In April 2020, we submitted our application for long-term, low-cost federal financing through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). If our loan application is successful, we will be able to significantly reduce the cost to ratepayers while keeping the region’s water safe and abundant for generations to come.
A WIFIA loan has multiple benefits:
- Very low interest rates are fixed and locked in for the life of the loan
- Estimated to save ratepayers about $350 million of debt service over the loan term
- Repayment can begin in 2032 after customers are getting facility benefits
We are committed to keeping water rates affordable by actively managing costs throughout the life of the project. We will continue to assist those who struggle to afford their bill through the expanded low-income assistance program. If you’re having trouble affording your bill, our Financial Assistance program may be able to help.
The Bull Run Treatment Projects are delivering on the City’s policy to promote contracting opportunities with certified Disadvantaged, Minority, Women, Emerging Small Businesses, Service Disabled Veterans Business Enterprises to encourage inclusion and a sustained, vibrant local economy. Read our Fact Sheet to learn more efforts in our Fact Sheet.