Portland Water Bureau monitoring spread of Camp Creek Fire. Portland’s drinking water remains safe.

News Article
August 31, 2023 update on the Camp Creek Fire.

The Portland Water Bureau continues to monitor the spread of the Camp Creek Fire burning in the Bull Run Watershed, the city’s main water supply. The fire is estimated to be 1,869 acres and zero percent contained based on infrared imaging from the night of August 30. The fire is approximately 1.3 miles from Reservoir 1 and approximately 1.9 miles from the Water Bureau’s Headworks treatment facility.  

The cooler, moist weather has dampened fire behavior, but the fire continues to burn steadily inside the thick canopy of trees. Fire in the watershed always poses a risk to our water supply, and weather conditions can change quickly. We continue to work closely with fire agencies to monitor the threat levels to our staff and infrastructure. We’re developing multiple contingency plans, so we are prepared in the event of further risk to staff and the water supply. 

Some of those contingencies could require a reduction in water use. Any scenario in which we need to turn off the Bull Run water supply (our primary water supply) would mean relying on 100 percent groundwater. There are two primary scenarios that we are watching closely that would lead us to require water reductions:  

  • The evacuation of the Headworks treatment facility or  

  • Severe turbidity (sediment suspended in the water) from seasonal rainfall  

We frequently see increased turbidity during the fall rainy season, but it can also be caused or exacerbated by the effects of fire in the watershed. 

The Water Bureau has been augmenting the Bull Run water supply with groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field since August 24 due to seasonal supply needs. The Water Bureau continues to deliver a blend of Bull Run water and groundwater at this time.  

“We are very lucky to have two high-quality water sources, and right now we are able to utilize both of them to meet our water needs,” said Gabriel Solmer, Water Bureau Director. “Should that change—should we be unable to use the Bull Run water supply—we would need to rely on our groundwater system alone. Groundwater is an excellent water source, but it cannot meet our full summer demand without a reduction in water use. In that case we would ask for help from our customers to reduce water use so we can continue to meet essential needs.”

The Portland Water Bureau continues to monitor water quality and has yet to see any fire-related impacts in our drinking water. 

The Portland Water Bureau has been working closely with the agencies in charge of fighting the fire since first alerted to the blaze. Agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and local fire departments. A national Incident Management Team took over joint fire command on August 27. The Portland Water Bureau does not have a direct firefighting role but is integrated into the Incident Management Team to provide critical information about the watershed, our facilities and our operations to help support and guide the ongoing fire response. 

The Water Bureau will continue to make periodic updates to keep the public informed. 

What you can do 

While the fire does not immediately threaten Portland’s water supply, it is important to stay informed, be prepared for emergencies and stay clear of the area to ensure access for emergency responders.  

No water restrictions are in place currently. If we need to reduce water use, we will ask that all Portland Water Bureau users and customers stop outdoor water use, especially for watering lawns and gardens, and reduce indoor water use when possible. To ensure you get emergency messages quickly from public safety officials, sign up for email updates from PublicAlerts at publicalerts.org/signup

Follow the Water Bureau on X (Twitter) and Facebook, and visit our website, Portland.gov/water, for the latest information about water quality and supply, updates related to this incident and other Water-related news.  

Information about emergency water storage is available in multiple languages on the Regional Water Providers Consortium website

Water Bureau will continue to rely on two water sources 

On Thursday, Aug. 24, we activated our groundwater supply to augment the Bull Run supply during the hot and dry summer. At this time, the bureau will continue to rely on a blend of water from the Bull Run Watershed and our groundwater source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field. 

About the Portland Water Bureau 

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.