Fall 2020 bill insert

Blog post

Looking for ways to manage your sewer/stormwater/water bill? Wondering what your bill pays for? The fall 2020 customer newsletter has answers.

Published

All about your bill

More than anything else, customers ask us about the bill: What does it pay for? Are there ways to save on it? During the pandemic and the economic uncertainty that has come with it, those questions are more pressing than ever. Here are some ways you can manage your bill.

Snippet of an example sewer/stormwater/water bill
You can save money on your sewer/stormwater/water bill.
  1. Bill discount program
    Depending on your income, you may be able to get a discount on every bill.
  2. Saving water
    You can save by replacing toilets and showerheads with more efficient models, and by checking for leaks.
  3. Monthly statements
    You can choose to pay every month (instead of every three months) so that your payment due isn’t as big.
  4. Clean River Rewards
    If rain from your roof safely soaks into the ground on your property, you could save up to $120 a year.
  5. Payment arrangements
    Call or email us to make payments over time, on a schedule that works for you.
Pie chart showing where the average bill goes: about 50% to sewer, 25% to water, 12% each to stormwater and base charge, 1% to Portland Harbor
This is how the average bill breaks down.

Your bill pays for the services you rely on

Your bill pays for running the sewer, stormwater, and water systems, and for investing in those systems. Major investments make the systems more likely to stand up to earthquakes. Investments also help Portland comply with state and federal regulations for the environment and public health.

Dollar bill cut up into spending percentages: 38% debt service, 38% operations and maintenance, 14% capital investments, and 10% other costs.
This is how a typical dollar is spent.

Debt service: paying off past projects (38 percent)

When utilities plan major projects, they usually sell bonds to spread the costs over decades. That means everyone—current, past, and future ratepayers—invests in the system.

Photo of a truck with bright, overhead lights shining at us driving towards us through a giant pipe with puddles of water on the bottom of the pipe.
Finished in 2011, the Big Pipes keep sewage out of the Willamette River and Columbia Slough.

Operations and maintenance: The everyday work (38 percent)

Running the sewer, stormwater, and water systems requires work every day of the year: protecting water sources, monitoring water quality, treating the water, working with Portlanders, and maintaining infrastructure.

Photo of a Water Bureau employee wearing a construction vest, waterproof boots, and a face mask, facing the camera. A few feet away, a 10-foot hose attached to a hydrant spews water into the street.
Employees work to keep your sewer, water, and stormwater systems going twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Capital investments: Investing for the future (14 percent)

Major construction projects make the sewer, stormwater, and water systems stronger and more reliable. Capital investment can go to replacing older pipes, improving water treatment, restoring stream habitat, and improving infrastructure.

Illustration of a cross-section of the Willamette River with a pipe underground underneath the river. Above ground, outlines of tall downtown buildings are on the left, the Steel Bridge in the middle, and the Convention center is on the right.
Willamette River Crossing, under construction now, will make sure we can get water to the west side of the river after an earthquake.

Other costs (10 percent)

This covers other costs, including utility license fees and shared City of Portland services.

Concerned that something isn’t right with your bill?

Please email or call us. If we can’t resolve your concern, you may file a formal, written appeal to the Administrative Review Committee at no cost. Visit our customer rights page to learn more.