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Troubleshooting water pressure and flow

Cross-section drawing with a tall hill on the left descending into a valley on the right. A water tank is perched on the hill and an underground water main pipe connects the tank to homes. The house at the highest elevation has lowest water pressure, and the house at the lowest elevation has highest water pressure.
Learn about water pressure in Portland and how to troubleshoot water pressure or flow problems in your home.
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If you have a water pressure issue, it's most likely related to your home plumbing. That said, water main breaks and other water system events can also cause temporary water pressure changes. Learn more below about water pressure and flow and how to troubleshoot common issues. You can also find this information in the Customer Guide to Water Quality and Pressure:

Frequently asked questions about water pressure and flow

What determines my everyday water pressure?

In most cases, your water pressure is determined by the difference in elevation between a city water tank and your home. Water utilities store water in tanks higher than the homes around them so that gravity can do the work of distributing the water and creating water pressure.

Does everyone in Portland receive the same water pressure?

No. Water pressure varies across town, and even among different buildings on the same street (see the graphic at the top of the page). We manage the system to keep most homes between 40 and 80 pounds per square inch of pressure, but some homes receive lower or higher pressure. We aren't able to adjust water pressure at individual homes.

What is the difference between flow rate and water pressure?

Flow rate is the amount of water coming out of a faucet or hose over a certain time period. Flow rate is often measured in gallons per minute. Pressure is the amount of force put on the water to make it move from one place to another. Pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). Sometimes people experience what seems like low pressure, but the problem is actually low flow. You could have low flow in your home because of a clogged faucet, old corroded pipes, or other plumbing issues, even when your water pressure is normal. On the other hand, you could have low pressure, which can be caused by a leak in your home's plumbing or a water service disruption in your neighborhood. Check the troubleshooting tips below for help figuring out what might be causing your issue.

What is the water pressure at my home?

Contact the Water Quality Line and we can look up the estimated static water pressure range for your home. You can also buy an inexpensive pressure gauge at a hardware store to check pressure in real time.

My water pressure is too low or too high. What should I do?

Follow the troubleshooting steps in the sections below.

Low water pressure or flow

If your water pressure or flow changes (either suddenly or gradually), check all faucets inside and outside your home and compare hot and cold water.

If only the hot water has lower flow, and cold water is normal: Examine your water heater for leaks or other failures. Clean hot water faucet screens (aerators) and showerheads. Call a plumber or your property manager if you can't address the problem. 

If some faucets still have normal flow, while other faucets have lower flow: This indicates a plumbing issue at specific faucets in your home. Remove any filters or faucet screens (aerators) and check for blockages. Check that all water valves inside your home are all the way open. Listen for running water sounds that may indicate a leak. If you have older galvanized plumbing, you may have restricted flow from pipe corrosion. Call a plumber or your property manager if you can't address the problem.

If flow is reduced at all faucets, including outside hose spigots: Remove and clean aerator screens to see if flow improves. If you have a pressure reducing valve (PRV) or whole house filter, make sure it's still working. If you have older galvanized plumbing in your home, you may have restricted flow from corrosion. Check for visible leaks inside and outside the home and check your meter’s leak detector. If you are in an apartment or condo building, report the issue to your property manager. Contact the Water Quality Line if you can't determine the cause.

Note: Some homes always receive lower pressure due to their location and elevation. If you live at a location that is supposed to receive water pressure lower than 40 psi, you may choose to install a booster pump to increase pressure. To determine the estimated static pressure range for your address, contact the Water Quality Line. 

No water, zero percent flow

If you have no water at all, check all faucets, including those in the lowest level of your home. Compare hot and cold water. If you are completely out of water at all cold water faucets, check your front door for a shutoff notice and look outside to see if crews are working nearby. If you are in a multifamily property, notify your property manager so they can determine if the issue is occurring in all units inside the building. Contact the Water Quality Line if you can't determine the cause. If cold water has normal flow, but you have no hot water, contact a plumber or your property manager.

Fluctuating water pressure

Pressure fluctuations are normal and can come from daily or seasonal changes in water use. In residential neighborhoods, daily peak use is before and after normal business hours, as people use water to get ready for work or school and as people do chores in the evening. Seasonal peaks occur when people are watering their gardens in the summer. During peak use periods, you may have lower water pressure. If you're concerned, monitor your pressure and report unusual fluctuations to the Water Quality Line

High water pressure

Report high water pressure concerns to the Water Quality Line. It's possible that your home is supposed to receive higher pressure due to its location and elevation. And while it's rare, a temporary spike in water pressure can occur if there is an issue in the water distribution system. If necessary, we can test the pressure at your meter. If pressure is within the expected range, we consider your pressure to be normal and can't change the pressure for you. If the pressure bothers you, you may need to install (or repair) a pressure reducing valve (PRV), which is required by plumbing code if your home receives higher than 80 psi. If water pressure is out of normal range, we will investigate and resolve the problem.