Heavy Rains Cause Turbidity in Bull Run; Water Shifted to 100 Percent Groundwater

News Article
Recent heavy rains and increased stream flows have contributed to a rapid increase in turbidity (organic material suspended in the water) in the Bull Run system.

Recent heavy rains and increased stream flows have contributed to a rapid increase in turbidity (organic material suspended in the water) in the Bull Run system. Due to the turbid conditions, the Portland Water Bureau has temporarily turned off the Bull Run water supply and is using the Columbia South Shore Well Field to supply 100 percent groundwater.

No action is needed by the public, and the community’s water supply remains safe to drink. The Columbia South Shore Well Field is doing what it was designed to do, meeting our community’s drinking water needs and complying with Safe Drinking Water regulations.

Operations Manager Chris Wanner said the transition from Bull Run water to 100 percent groundwater went smoothly, crediting the ratepayers’ ongoing investment in both water sources, and the dedication of the Water Bureau staff that keep the water system working.

“It’s important that our community members know how incredibly fortunate we are to have two reliable water sources,” said Wanner. “It doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of decades of hard work by highly skilled water workers, and the ongoing support of the people who pay the water bill. Water system investments, like the forthcoming Bull Run Treatment Facility, must continue as we prepare for a future of uncertainties.”

Portland Water Bureau Deputy Director Edward Campbell said groundwater is one of our most powerful tools in planning for climate change.

“We can expect more extreme weather events. Groundwater allows us to reliably provide water to people when severe storms affect the Bull Run watershed.”

The new Bull Run filtration facility will enable the Water Bureau to reliably serve Bull Run water after an event like an extreme storm that puts silt, debris, or other contaminants in the water. It will also remove disease-causing microorganisms from our water to make it even safer.

Columbia South Shore Well Field

The Columbia South Shore Well Field was developed to augment the Bull Run supply during hot dry summers and to serve as a secondary supply when conditions such as sudden storms impact the Bull Run supply.  It is vital to maintain both the Bull Run supply and the well field for our overall system reliability.

Like the Bull Run supply, groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field is a high-quality water supply that meets or surpasses all federal and state drinking water quality standards. The well field can produce high quality drinking water from wells, which have been drilled into protected aquifers deep below the ground.

Depending on the household’s location, it can take up to two weeks for groundwater to move through the distribution system and gradually replace Bull Run water at the tap. The Water Bureau will operate the groundwater system as long as weather conditions and water quality dictate. Notification will be provided when the system returns to 100 percent Bull Run water.

Learn more about the Columbia South Shore Well Field here: portlandoregon.gov/water/groundwater.

Customers with questions are encouraged to contact the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

Bull Run Treatment Projects

The Bull Run Filtration Project will reduce the impact of turbidity events and remove Cryptosporidium and other potential contaminants from the Bull Run supply, producing cleaner, safer water for the nearly one million people who use our water today and for future generations. The project is required by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and must be completed by Sept. 30, 2027, through a compliance agreement with the Oregon Health Authority. Visit portland.gov/bullrunprojects for more information.