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Portlanders want clean, sparkling water throughout the city.

Section Summary

Many people like that Portland sets an example for low-impact storm water management and they often appreciate the taste of Portland’s tap water. However, many expressed concerns over the cleanliness of water from our rivers, streams and occasionally tap water in residents’ homes. People think that clean, quality water should be available to all, and that the City government should ensure that drinkable water is affordable. Portlanders also believe that policies should better regulate clean water.

Many Portlanders would like to see water protected as a valuable resource by supporting programs that encourage wide reuse of water, including rainwater catchment and grey water systems. They recognize that if Portland had clean water in its rivers and streams, it would lead to more opportunities for local water recreation and enable fish and wildlife to flourish. Many people express their hopes that natural springs and streams that have been paved over can be restored, enabling water to flow more freely through the city.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. The water in Portland is a valuable resource for all.
  2. In the future, the rivers and water sources should be cleaner and more accessible.
  3. More water should be allowed to run through the city and in parks.
  4. Portland should implement even more sustainable water practices.
  5. Household water should be more affordable.


  1. The water in Portland is a valuable resource for all.
  • Tap water is often drinkable and tastes clean, especially compared with the water in other cities.
  • Portlanders identify the Columbia and Willamette rivers as integral parts of the city, valuing their proximity and their availability for a wide array of uses.
  • Some view water as a valuable resource that can be further utilized on a local level through expanding sustainable practices such as rainwater catchment systems.
  • People like the reservoirs for their historical significance and for their enhancement of the city's topography.
  • Respondents appreciate the fact that we have an adequate water supply.
“[I value that] Portland is a big city based in a water-rich ecosystem, forested by nature.”

"I love the water and bridges. Water is the soul of the city, wisdom of the city. Bridges are the city’s veins, city’s energy. More water, more bridges can make the city more beautiful."

“[I value] water quality and taste; abundance for the veggie garden, edible flowers—our wood fired hot tub is filled with rainwater, then we water our plants.”

  1. In the future, the rivers and water sources should be cleaner and more accessible.
  • Numerous people requested that our waterways, in particular, the Willamette River, be cleaned up.
  • Quality water should be equally distributed among neighborhoods and available to everyone for drinking and irrigation.
  • Of those who wanted to see cleaner rivers, most people expressed an interest in sweeping policy shifts to enforce clean water practices.
    • Some Portlanders wish to see clean water policies directed at industries located near our rivers and water sources, as well as companies that use local water ways for the transportation of goods.
  • There should be a regional approach to cleaning the local rivers, rather than relying on the federal government.
  • Fish and wildlife restoration efforts should be incorporated into efforts to clean rivers.
  • Cleaner rivers should allow for more recreational and even commuting opportunities, including:
    • Fishing;
    • Swimming (for people and pets);
    • Water-based public transportation (small passenger ferries or river taxis that connect separate parts of the city); and
    • More public access to both the Willamette (East and West) and Columbia Rivers.
  • Some believe that views of the river should not be blocked by high-rise development or industrial activity along the river.
    [Note: For more information on water pollution, view Environment: Pollution]
“We should boast to other cities how we have wild trout and salmon in our urban streams…”

“I’d like to see cleaner rivers—the Willamette is an aberration on this clean city and frankly a real embarrassment…”

“I most want a healthy Columbia Slough, a clean Willamette, and drinking water that doesn’t taste like chlorine or come with suspicions that the Columbia River groundwater is being mixed with Bull Run water.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Consider European-style development options along the waterfront.
  2. More benefits for non-motorized boats on the Willamette by providing more places to keep such boats; designate "no wake zones" for only non-motor boat use.
  3. Create stricter laws to regulate sewage spills and other forms of water pollution.
  4. “Take the reins away from the federal government and spearhead a directed initiative between Washington, Oregon and the various cities located on both the Columbia and Willamette rivers for a true and comprehensive clean-up.”

  1. More water should be allowed to run through the city and in parks.
  • People want to see more of the city’s original waterways surfaced and brought into public view, and for streams and creeks that have been paved over to be released and woven back into the urban topography.
  • Put stormwater in parks as surface water displays for people to enjoy.
"[I would like to see] stream/creek release—getting surface water back up on land in many places throughout the city.”

  1. Portland should implement even more sustainable water practices.
  • Portlanders think more could be done to conserve water and advocate for public education around water storage and conservation options.
  • Some people advocate for small-scale, neighborhood-based stormwater management options, including rainwater use and water catchment systems.
  • Water conservation measures can be enforced by fining homeowners and businesses for overuse of water during seasonal dry spells.
  • People support the Big Pipe and other efforts to eliminate sewage overflow into the river.
  • Respondents would like to see tax credits for those who implement rain water collection methods.

Sample Strategies:

  1. Provide incentives for people to conserve water use.
  2. Reduce inefficiency at the Portland Water Bureau.

  1. Household water should be more affordable.
  • Some respondents express concern over high city water bills (see Government: Utilities).
  • Some people request that the Water Bureau reduce water costs and bills.

“...Between our water/sewer bill and property taxes we will probably have to move out of Portland when we retire. That makes me very sad.”

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