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Keeping your drinking water safe

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Illustration of person in a lab coat examining a test tube inside a lab.
Delivering safe, clean, and reliable drinking water is our highest priority.
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Portland’s water is safe and delicious—and we work hard 24/7/365 to keep it that way. Our dedicated staff work around the clock to maintain the quality of water that flows from our water sources to your taps.

blue lake with wooden sign that says Bull Run Lake on metal  railing surrounded by evergreen forested hills and snow covered volcano in background
We selected the Bull Run Watershed as our water source in the late 1800s due to its high quality and pristine waterways.

Water quality is not just a goal for us—it’s part of our culture. We know that serving our community safe, clean, and great-tasting drinking water is important, and we take that stewardship of public health seriously. Since we began serving water in 1895, we’ve considered water quality in every decision, from selecting our water sources to developing our water system.

Today, all our staff play a role in maintaining our excellent water quality. Because of this collective work, we have been proudly serving clean, safe drinking water to the Portland region for over 125 years.

From the source to your tap

Our water quality story starts where the water does: at the source. We operate strong protection programs for both the Bull Run Watershed and our groundwater system to make sure they remain high-quality sources of water for our region.

As our drinking water continues its journey to town, we use a three-step process to treat our drinking water and ensure our water meets drinking water standards.

A water bureau employee examines a small container of water next to an open green water quality sampling station. Water is flowing from a spout in the sampling station.
Water quality samplers collect thousands of water samples from over 270 locations each year.

We also test your water throughout the process to ensure treatment is working properly and guide our operations. At our water sources and treatment facilities, specialized instruments continually monitor the quality of the water as it moves through the treatment process.

In town, a team of experts continues to track water quality by collecting around 4,700 water samples each year from over 270 locations across our water system. That’s an average of about 90 samples each week! Our water quality lab conducts almost 50,000 tests for more than 200 potential contaminants each year. Every year, we make our test results and other water quality information publicly available through our Drinking Water Quality Report.

None of this could happen without the hard work of our teams who test your water, keep water flowing, and staff our facilities every day, all year long. From our water treatment operators to our hydrant flushing teams, their commitment and dedication keep our water treatment systems functioning—even overnight, on weekends, and on holidays!

A Portland Water Bureau Employee bends down to turn a knob on a hydrant. Dirty, rust colored water is flowing out of the hydrant at a high volume.
Hydrant flushing teams maintain water quality by cleaning the pipes that deliver water to homes and businesses throughout the city.

The future of water treatment

Angle shot of two large white silos that tower over an industrial building behind them.
Finished in 2022, the Improved Corrosion Control Treatment facility makes our water less corrosive.

Keeping your water safe not only takes a lot of dedicated employees but also requires us to think and plan ahead. We’re always evaluating our water treatment systems and investing in improvements based on changing conditions in our water supply and evolving scientific standards.

For example, in 2022, we brought a new treatment facility online to further reduce the levels of lead that can enter water from home and building plumbing systems.

We’re also hard at work preparing to construct a new filtration facility to remove Cryptosporidium from our drinking water. Filtration will also better prepare us to adapt to changing conditions in the Bull Run Watershed and future regulations. As part of the design process, we ran a filtration pilot project to test what filtration and treatment methods work best for our unique water source.

The Bull Run Filtration pilot project collected data about what treatment is best suited for our Bull Run water.

What you can do

Water quality is a shared responsibility. The City maintains drinking water quality and infrastructure up to and including the water meter. After water passes the meter, residents and businesses must take steps to maintain water quality in homes and buildings. But you don’t have to do it alone—we’re here to help!

Illustration showing that the City is responsible for water infrastructure up to and including the water meter. After water passes the meter, water infrastructure is the responsibility of the customer.
After water passes the meter, residents and businesses must take steps to maintain water quality in homes and buildings.
A water bureau employee sits in a cubicle talking on the phone with a smile.
Our Water Quality Line is staffed by experts that can answer your questions about water quality or pressure concerns.

You can speak directly with water quality experts five days a week by calling or emailing our Water Quality Line. Our staff are eager to answer your questions about water quality and pressure or help you troubleshoot issues at your home.

If you’re concerned about lead in your water, we provide free lead-in-water testing for all Portland-area residents, schools, and childcare facilities.

We depend on property owners to maintain water quality once water flows onto their properties. If you manage a large building, you should implement a water management program to protect your building’s water quality and address the risk of Legionella growth. In certain situations, property owners must install, test, and maintain backflow prevention devices. Backflow prevention devices protect water quality and public health by preventing contaminants like fertilizers from entering the water system.

Illustration showing how backflow prevention devices keep water flowing in one direction. Text reads Backflow assembly prevents water from traveling back into your drinking water.
You may be required to install, test, and maintain a backflow prevention device if you have a lawn irrigation system or manage a commercial property.

We also rely on you to inform us of any water quality issues or changes you notice. Reports from community members ensure we can address and resolve water quality issues as soon as possible.

Report issues to our Water Quality team Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, report urgent concerns to our 24/7 emergency dispatch line at 503-823-4874, option 1.