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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

At the end, Fireman Randy will squirt you with a Super Soaker

This actually looks like a neat way to kill a Wednesday.

Comments (21)

I'd be much more interested in a tour of their data processing center.

"Activities include tours (van and walking) and ride-alongs with Portland Water Bureau crews."

As Officer Toody on Car 54 would say, "Oooh! Oooh!"

This is a great way to find out about all the work that goes into providing some of the best drinking water to be found anywhere. The Bureau of Maintenance also conducts a field day, where you can experience road and sewer maintenance up close and personal. If you can take a weekday off from work, these public-works tours are well worth the time invested.


If you are serious, give me a call and we can arrange a "Field Day" tour of our data processing center and our Customer Service Center. You can watch bills being printed and computers blinking and whirring. If you want something more interesting, we could probably even plug you in with a call representative and open and close accounts, set up payment plans, make debt recovery calls, work with low income citizens who are struggling with paying their bill, etc.

We made some disastrous decisions over 6 years ago, but we learned from them and a year ago went "live" with a new billing system that gives us more functionality than we have ever had. We are at the point now where we are starting to plan improvements.

Most people are interested in seeing where their water comes from and how we manage to get it through over 2000 miles of conduit and pipe from the forest to your faucet.

But if you are more interested in seeing how your bill goes from Meter Reader to your mailboax, I can arrange that.

We got nothing to hide and a lot to show off.

Just give me a call.

David Shaff, Director
Portland Water Bureau

Forget the tour. Much more exciting is opening your Portland water and sewer bill. We got ours today. It's an outrage.

Divide it by 3 and see how it compares on a monthly basis to your gas bill, your power bill, your phone bill, your internet provider.

Don't forget you are also paying 3 utilities at once. Your water (the cheapest by far), your sewer, and stormwater. My combined monthly bill is the lowest of all my utilities.

My last bill was $144. That works out to about $15 per month for water. Cheaper than the "O".

But you also have to have a system to flush it away when you are done. There is another 2000+ miles of pipe that wer installed 100 years ago and a big treatment plant because we don;t just flush it straight into the river anymore.

Finally, all that rain that we don;t capture and sell back to you has to go somewhere - and the river is not the place for it.

Sewer and water for a family of four -- what should that cost? Fifty bucks a month? Seventy? A hundred?

all that rain that we don;t capture and sell back to you has to go somewhere - and the river is not the place for it.

You're right. But I didn't touch it. You should bill God.

My combined monthly bill is the lowest of all my utilities.

The energy guys are thieves. Are you, too?

God has immunity. The rain fell on your property. If God decides to knock down a fir tree right through your roof, you gotta pay--at least the deductible on your insurance policy.

There also are things you can do to keep rain from going straight from your roof or your yard into the sewer system.

If you are paying $100 a month for 4 you are using a lot of water. I think the average Portland resident pays around $58 per month ($43 for sewer and stormwater, $15 for water).

God never pays up.


$68.32 a month for sewer and water for 4. Last billing cycle it was $57.81. Low flow toilet, HE washing machine, new dishwasher, the works. 18 CCF this time (92 days), 16 CCF last (85 days). Basically 0.2 CCF per day.

David, there are many properties on the west side of the Willamette that accomodates their stormwater on site. Why isn't the discount that is offered on the east side offered to the west? In fact, it has recently been reported that few citizens have applied for the east side discounts.

In some respect, being able to handle stormwater on site for the west side has more benefit than the east. The soil quality on the west has more problems to accomodate stormwater, and potentially causes more erosion, drainage problems because of more hilly terrain. Besides the exceptions to this fact, the properties that accomplish onsite management should be encouraged. I would think the west side contributes more stormwater to the Willamette than the east because of the porous nature of the east side that allows easy acceptance of water

I also have to disagree with your statement that "we don't just flush it into the river anymore". What do you think the continuing notices of "beware, sewage discharges in the river" after each rain means? And just in my neighborhood having two major sewage line breaks along Stephens Creek and in Lair Hill means to water quality?

I've got to come to David's --and the Water Bureau's-- defense here. The bills are unquestionably high, but it isn't the cost of water that's high, it's the water's disposal of that water that's driving the cost of what we all call our "Water" bill. And the fact is the City of Portland is doing more than most jurisdictions to stop the discharges into the river. And there's a very high cost to that. (And the intent is to stop almost all combined sewer overflow discharges into the river.)

One of the things we too often fail to cop to is that there are costs to everything we do, those "externalities" transportation folks in particular don't like to talk about. Build a street and you've just built a channel to funnel contaminated water --contaminated by car wastes, especially-- to the river. But the cost of dealing with this runoff isn't included in your gas station bill, in shows up in your sewer one. Our highways, and parking lots are free from reflecting this expense.

At any rate, you can now pay your water/sewer/stormwater bill on-line with a credit card...and at least get frequent flyer miles.

Jack - If you think your bill is high now, just wait for the portland harbor superfund costs to kick-in in a few years. Also, if we lose the water-treatment lawsuit against the EPA - well, you have no idea what a "high" water bill is.

Actually the water bill is pretty reasonable, I have a home in a small town with its own water district and with out animals or anything anymore I pay between $50-$55/mo for water alone, and we have septic so that is for water only.

This thread has all the compelling urgency of the O's "Back Fence"

Mr Shaff, how about a "Field Day" on a weekend sometime? Kinda hard to get away from work for a half- or full day....

Just remember - if you lived in most homes in Sacramento your home would have no water meter and your "bill" for "waste water" would be minimal.

Just remember - if you lived in most homes in Sacramento your home would have no water meter and your "bill" for "waste water" would be minimal.

Yeah...but then you have to live in Sacramento.

No thanks.

At the risk of straying even farther from the original thread (i.e. the Water Bureau's Field Day looks like a fun way to spend a Wednesday), I would like to correct an error I made and provide a response to Dave A.

The average residential monthly bills I quoted above were from last year's Financial Plan. Sorry about that.

The current average residential monthly bill for water is $15.71 for 700 cubic feet 5,236 gallons). We use 7 ccf because that is what our average residential cutomer uses. It's been dropping over the past few years.

We also collect national data using a more industry standard 10 ccf. In Portland that would currently cost you $21.02 versus $23.83 in Sacramento. Dave A correctly points out they do not meter residential cusomers, but that doesn't mean it's free.

And it's not Bull Run water. (Thanks Frank)

Back to the plug from Jack - if you want to find out more, visit our website or sign up for Field Day.

Hi Larry K,

The Portland Water Bureau is a 24/7 operation, and while it's not feasible to organize a full scale Field Day on both a weekday and a weekend this year, maybe it's something we can look into for the future if there is sufficient interest.

However, we do have a number of actiivities planned on weekends throughout the year including the ever popular "Aquifer Adventure," tours of the well fields by bicycle, and educational tours of the Bull Run Watershed.

As far as Field Day is concerned, if there's an activity or tour listed that you'd like to check out on a weekend--a ride along with a crew, for example--give us a call. Our crews are out there every day, morning and night, rain or shine. Field Day and every day, we're glad when people are interested in learning exactly what the Water Buureau does do to keep the water system working, and working well.


Sarah Bott
(Field Day Coordinator 2007)
Public Information Officer
Portland Water Bureau
(503) 823-7637

P.S. Jack, I'm hoping we'll see you out there this year--cast off your lawyer garb for a day and don a hard hat and safety vest.


My monthly water/sewage bill for a family of six (two teenagers) is $100. Is is about the same as I pay for electricity and $25 more than my monthly gas bill.

it feels very high to me, coming from an area (NC) where my monthtly bill was 15-20.

If there is a way to reduce this bill, I'd be interested in hearing it. The only way I can see if to have the sewer folks redirect one of my downspouts so it discharges right into the middle of my front yard, already the muddiest part that we walk through from the car to the front door.

The bureau estimates that going "clean river" would save me about $6/month.

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