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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

Customer Service: 503-823-7770


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Earth Day 2018: Restoring Habitat in the Bull Run Watershed

Habitat Conservation in the Bull Run Watershed

Who calls the Bull Run Watershed home?

52 species of mammals
5 species of reptiles
16 species of amphibians
19 species of fish

The Bull Run Watershed, located in the Sandy River basin 25 miles from downtown Portland, is the main drinking supply for the City of Portland and many of the surrounding communities in the greater metro area.

Most of the watershed has a temperate rain forest climate, dominated by coniferous species such as Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western red cedar, and Pacific silver fir. It’s also home to a bounty of wildlife and fish – from pika to bobcats and salmon to salamanders.

Some fish species that call the watershed home are icons of the Pacific Northwest, like steelhead and coho salmon. They’re also listed as threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

How Our Use of Bull Run Water Affects the Fish that Live There

Bull Run Dam 1Man-made structures built in dense forest environments, like the Bull Run Watershed, can disrupt the natural life cycles of the animals that call the forest home.

It’s no surprise then that the operation of Portland’s water supply system in the Bull Run affects the fish that live in the rivers of Bull Run: steelhead, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon.

Introducing: Dam 1 and Dam 2. The water supply system’s two dams block fish passage six miles up the Bull Run River while affecting stream flows and water temperatures downstream. The dams also block riverbed gravel from traveling into the lower Bull Run River, depriving these threatened fish of critical habitat for spawning.

To ease the effects on these fish caused by the dams, we developed the Bull Run Water Supply Habitat Conservation Plan. This plan allows us to operate the dams, which maintain the water supply for almost a million people, while restoring habitat for threatened aquatic wildlife. We’re aiming for a win-win.

And, after years of restoring fish habitat, the numbers have started coming in: our conservation efforts are working.

Restoring Vital Habitat: Logjams and Gravel

Logjam in streamThe Habitat Conservation Plan has the Water Bureau adjusting its usual water-supply activities to cool the river needed for threatened fish species, make sure there is enough water for fish, adding spawning gravel, and improving fish habitat throughout the Sandy River to offset habitat blocked by the dams.

Not only do fish need to get from one place to another, they need a safe space to spawn (read: lay eggs and make fish babies). So once per year, hundreds of tons of gravel are shot from the back of a truck into the Bull Run River.

The gravel settles into the river and creates vital spawning habitat for threatened fish. And the data show us that the surface area of gravel available to salmon and steelhead for spawning has more than tripled in the lower Bull Run River since we began adding it eight years ago. The water temperature in the river is also much cooler in the summer than it used to be.

And some fish numbers in the river are increasing. That’s great news, and a sign our efforts are paying off. Of course, we can’t claim full credit for this, because there are so many factors that affect fish numbers. But we’ve observed a definite increase in the number of steelhead juveniles (called smolts) leaving the Bull Run River for the ocean each year.

Chart illustrating that fish numbers are increasing in the lower Bull Run River

We’re also working with private landowners, Metro, and other regional organizations to provide access and to improve fish habitat throughout the Sandy River basin.

Fish ladders help salmon migrate in the Bull Run WatershedWe’ve replaced culverts and built fish ladders.

We’re also placing logs and rootwads into streams, which provide protective shelter for salmon and other aquatic wildlife. Juvenile salmon and steelhead find refuge in the pools under the large logs that are placed in the stream channels. And the data show us that fish habitat is starting to improve. Logjams are more common where the Water Bureau has worked, and they’re starting to collect more woody debris and allow gravel to settle in places where it used to get washed away. Restoring fish habitat is a slow process, so it could take many years before all of the Water Bureau’s objectives have been met.

What’s Next for Habitat Conservation in the Bull Run

Environmental specialist monitoring aquatic wildlifeWe still have plenty of work to do for the Habitat Conservation Plan.

Water supply operations will continue, but now our work will be done with a sharper eye towards minimizing impacts to fish and wildlife. Water temperatures and flow will be carefully managed and the lower Bull Run River will receive a dose of gravel every year, with some work still needing to be done to improve fish habitat in neighboring streams. And, of course, we will continue watching and measuring to be sure that the restoration benefits we’ve started will come to pass.

April 12, 2018: Cryptosporidium Monitoring Update

The Portland Water Bureau received results from ongoing monitoring from the Bull Run Watershed intake for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. One Cryptosporidium oocyst was detected in a 50-liter sample collected on Tuesday April 10, 2018. Prior to this detection, Cryptosporidium was last detected from the Bull Run Watershed intake on Feb. 19, 2018, when one oocyst was detected in a 50-liter sample.

The bureau continues to use the Bull Run as its primary source of drinking water. The Portland Water Bureau does not currently treat for Cryptosporidium, but is required to do so under the drinking water regulations. Portland is working to install filtration by 2027 under a compliance schedule with the Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, the Portland Water Bureau is implementing interim measures such as watershed protection and additional monitoring to protect public health. Consultation with public health officials has concluded that at this time, customers do not need to take any additional precautions.

About Cryptosporidium

Exposure to Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a serious illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain. People with healthy immune systems recover without medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with severely weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system; and cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that a small percentage of the population could experience gastro-intestinal illness from Cryptosporidium and advises that customers who are immunocompromised and receive their drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed consult with their healthcare professional about the safety of drinking the tap water. The Portland Water Bureau and Burlington, City of Gresham, City of Sandy, City of Tualatin, Green Valley, GNR, Hideaway Hills, Lake Grove, Lorna Portland Water, Lusted, Palatine Hill, Pleasant Home, Raleigh, Rockwood, Skyview Acres, Tualatin Valley, Two Rivers, Valley View and West Slope Water Districts receive all or part of their drinking water supply from the Bull Run. To learn if your drinking water comes from Bull Run, please contact your local drinking water provider.

Additional Information

The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at The bureau will notify the media and public immediately should further test results indicate a risk to public health and precautions are necessary.

Customers with questions regarding water quality can call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

Slow Down for National Work Zone Awareness Week (And All Year Round)

Construction workers working on downtown Portland streetOur maintenance and construction crews are ready 24/7 to respond to water emergencies all over the metro area.

Workers can be spotted wearing brightly-colored vests and hard hats that alert motorists and bicyclists to use caution when approaching work zones. With warmer weather just a few weeks away, summer construction season is almost here, and you’ll be seeing more orange around town.

This summer, please be on alert when you see fluorescent-clad crews working in the street.

How to Stay Safe When Traveling Through a Work Zone

Protect yourself and our workers by following these safety steps.

  • Use an alternate route. When you can, avoid streets with posted work zones.
  • Expect delays. Plan to leave early so you can drive safely through the work zone and avoid having to rush.
  • Be alert. Pay attention to the driving task and watch the cars ahead of you.
  • Obey all speed and warning signs. They are there for your safety and will help prevent a collision. 
  • Do not tailgate. Double the following distance.
  • Carefully move over. When possible give workers more room between them and your vehicle, but do not veer into oncoming traffic lane.
  • Watch for vehicle access. Be aware that temporary construction may impact either side of the road, or adjacent streets.
  • Stay clear of construction vehicles. Heavy vehicles travel in and out of the work areas and can make sudden moves.

Mt. Tabor Open House: Help Us Tell the Story of the Mt. Tabor Reservoirs

Mt. Tabor Reservoir Historical Photo

PCC Southeast Campus MapJoin us for an open house exploring ideas for interpretive displays about the historic reservoirs and Portland’s water system.

Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Interpretive Displays Open House
Time: 10 a.m. - noon
Date: Saturday, April 14, 2018
Location: Portland Community College SE Campus, Community Hall Annex, 2305 SE 82nd Ave.
Coffee and pastries will be provided.

About this Project

For more than a hundred years, Mt. Tabor formed a major part of Portland’s water system, with most of the city’s water passing through reservoirs on its slopes.

To comply with new drinking water regulations, the Portland Water Bureau disconnected Mt. Tabor’s uncovered reservoirs from the drinking water system in 2015. As part of the disconnection, the Water Bureau agreed to create interpretive displays honoring Mt. Tabor’s important place in the city’s water system.

The Water Bureau is working with stakeholders, including the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association, to design interpretive displays and mobile app content that will tell the story of the reservoirs to park visitors.

More Information

Visit the Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Preservation Project to find out more about this project and others.

For more information, contact Tom Carter at

Please contact us for translation or interpretation, or for accommodations for people with disabilities: 503-823-7432 (TTY: 503-823-6868, Relay Service: 711).

178 Parking Spaces and Restored Traffic Flow Are Coming to Washington Park

Washington Park directions

Upcoming Access Improvements at Washington Park
  • All entrances and exits will be open.
  • The historic park entrance at SW Park Place will reopen to vehicles.
  • Sherwood Blvd, which links the gardens to the SW Park Place entrance and the Children’s Playground will reopen.
  • 178 parking spaces will be restored near the Japanese and Rose Garden.
  • Read the full list of traffic updates and impacts.

The Water Bureau’s Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project is bringing a “reservoir of the future” to Washington Park.

When complete, the new reservoir will be able to withstand the potentially catastrophic effects of a major earthquake and will supply water to 360,000 people on the west side of the river.

All the construction in Washington Park has meant that park visitors and neighbors have had to be patient with traffic pattern changes and reduced parking options.

Good news: Starting this weekend, your visit to Washington Park’s world-class attractions is about to get a little bit more spectacular.

This Weekend: More Parking and Better Access

This weekend, construction crews will restore much of the traffic flow in Washington Park affected by the Reservoir Improvement Project. These restoration efforts will be fully in place by Monday morning.

All streets that were temporarily closed or had traffic flow changes related to this project will be reopened and returned to their typical traffic patterns. Approximately 178 of the 220 parking spaces that were closed will be reopened.

Residents and visitors to the park should still expect delays, and watch for signs, plan extra time for trips, and consider alternate routes and modes of transportation to get to destinations.

More Information

Read the full traffic advisory – including a complete list of traffic updates and park impacts – on the Water Bureau News webpage.