Our Region's Water
Curious about where your water comes from and how it gets to your tap? Read on to learn more about our region’s water.
Water is our number one natural resource. We rely on high quality water for drinking, protecting public health, recreation, sustaining our economy, fire protection, and fish and wildlife. Water is essential for life as we know it, yet most of us take it for granted. As water providers, we are committed to protect and preserve this natural resource to ensure that people have safe and reliable drinking water 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Residents living within the tri-county Portland-metropolitan area get their water from a variety of sources, including watersheds as far west as the Trask River (Coast Range), as far south as the Willamette River (in Wilsonville), and as far east as the Bull Run Watershed (in the Sandy River Basin). Municipal drinking water supplies come from surface water sources (rivers and lakes), or groundwater (wells), or a mix of the two.
While some people living in rural areas have their own wells, urban areas rely on public water providers that plan and manage a complex network of facilities that move water from its source to your home or business. This water supply infrastructure is comprised of water treatment plants, pump stations, reservoirs, in-town storage tanks, and thousands of miles of pipes. The various water systems are individually managed by cities, water districts, and public utility districts.
Helping regional water providers manage their water supplies efficiently and safely are primary goals for the Regional Water Providers Consortium, a group of more than 20 members that include water providers and Metro. The Consortium was formed in 1997 after a multi-year effort to develop a regional water supply plan. The group’s responsibilities have grown from planning for the region’s water needs to implementing conservation and emergency preparedness programs.
Regional Water Supplies
Some areas receive all of their water from one source; other areas use a number of sources. Here is some general information about water sources by county. To figure out who your water provider is, use this look-up tool or check your water bill.
Water providers include: the cities of Boring,* Gladstone, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Sandy, Wilsonville,* and West Linn; Sunrise Water Authority; Oak Lodge Water Services; Clackamas River Water; and several other smaller entities. Water primarily comes from these sources of supply:
- Clackamas River: The Clackamas River supplies high-quality drinking water for nearly 300,000 people in Clackamas and Washington Counties. There are five individual intakes (sites along the river from where water is drawn) and treatment plants located in the lower three miles of the river before it flows into the Willamette River.
- Willamette River: The Willamette River at Wilsonville is the site of a large water intake facility and water treatment plant, which is the source of supply for the Cities of Wilsonville* and Sherwood. Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) and the City of Hillsboro are partnering to develop the mid-Willamette River at Wilsonville as a future water supply source.
- Groundwater: In some jurisdictions, groundwater is also used as a primary source or to supplement surface water.
- Bull Run Watershed and other sources: The City of Sandy gets drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed through a contract with the Portland Water Bureau as well as from Alder Creek and Brownell Springs.
Water providers in Multnomah County include: the cities of Gresham, Fairview,* Portland, Troutdale,* and Wood Village;* Rockwood Water People’s Utility District (PUD); and several other smaller entities. Water primarily comes from these sources of supply:
- Bull Run Watershed and Columbia South Shore Well Field: The City of Portland’s primary water supply is the Bull Run Watershed (located 26 miles east of downtown Portland). The Columbia South Shore Well Field, located between Blue Lake Park and the Portland Airport, is Portland’s secondary water source and provides supplemental supply during the summer high demand season and emergencies.
- Cascade Well Field: The Cascade Well Field serves the City of Gresham and Rockwood Water PUD as a supplemental supply to the Bull Run Watershed.
- Groundwater: Serves Fairview,* Troutdale,* and Wood Village.*
Water providers include: the Cities of Beaverton, Cornelius,* Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Sherwood, Tigard, and Tualatin; Raleigh, Tualatin Valley, and West Slope Water Districts; and several other smaller entities. Water primarily comes from these sources of supply:
- Tualatin River: The Joint Water Commission (JWC) manages a water treatment plant on the Tualatin River. The JWC is the primary water supplier to 365,000 customers in Washington County, and serves all or portions of the Cities of Beaverton, Forest Grove, Hillsboro, and the Tualatin Valley Water District. The JWC supplements the water from the Tualatin River in the summertime with stored water from the municipally-owned Barney Reservoir and a municipal supply in the Bureau of Reclamation-owned Scoggins Reservoir (also known as Hagg Lake).
- Bull Run Watershed: The City of Tualatin, and Raleigh and Tualatin Valley Water Districts have wholesale contracts to obtain water from the Portland Water Bureau to serve as their primary source or to supplement other sources of supply.
- Aquifer Storage and Recovery: Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) is a way of storing drinking water underground, then pumping it out when it is needed. For example, during the winter and spring, the City of Beaverton injects treated drinking water from the Joint Water Commission (JWC) Water Treatment Plant into natural underground basalt formations (aquifers), displacing native groundwater. Stored water in the aquifer is pumped out of the ASR wells during the summer when demand increases as customers drink more water and use it for outdoor activities, such as irrigation for landscaping and gardens.
- Clackamas River: In August 2008, the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard formally endorsed a partnership agreement for sharing drinking water resources and costs. Nearing completion, the partnership expands Lake Oswego’s existing drinking water infrastructure which uses water from the Clackamas River so that it can serve both communities. The new water supply facilities are the most seismically resilient in the state. The City of Tigard is now served by the Clackamas River.
A case for conservation
We are fortunate to have plentiful water supplies capable of meeting our current and future needs for clean, safe drinking water. However, the amount of water available from each water source may vary from month to month, and the amount of water used by households in the summer months can be two to three times more than what is used in the winter months. It is also important to keep sufficient water in the rivers and streams to meet the needs of fish and aquatic life, as well as for other users.
What can you do?
Be smart with the water you use so that there is plenty to go around. Get more information using water efficiently.
*Note: Boring, Fairview, Cornelius, Lake Grove, Troutdale, Wilsonville and Wood Village are not members of the Regional Water Providers Consortium. If you receive your water from these providers, contact them directly for more information about their source(s).