Water Quality in Portland, Oregon
Watershed: Bull Run – Willamette River
What is the water quality like in Portland, OR?
Let’s dive deeper into what’s in Portland water.
What’s in Portland water?
Here are the top 3 chemical compounds in your water and what health issues they can potentially cause:
- Arsenic – Potential effect: Cancer
- Haloacetic acids – Potential effect: Cancer
- Total trihalomethanes – Potential effect: Cancer
These are three of the 11 contaminants analyzed by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org).
These 3 contaminants are rated as exceeding EWG Health Guidelines.
See the What Can You Do? section below for all of the contaminants you can filter out and how to do it.
Where does Portland’s water come from?
Portland’s water comes from the Bull Run – Willamette River watershed.
21 of the 23 EPA assessed water sources in the Willamette River watershed are in Impaired or Unknown condition. These include:
- Balch Creek – Impaired
- Beaverton Creek – Impaired
- Blue Lake – Impaired
- Bybee Lake – Impaired
- Columbia River – Impaired
- Columbia Slough (3 segments) – Impaired
- Fairview Lake – Impaired
- Fanno Creek – Impaired
- Laurelhurst Pond – Impaired
- Multnomah Channel – Impaired
- Oswego Creek – Impaired
- Smith Lake – Impaired
- Willamette River – Impaired
Ideally, a water source would be rated in Good condition. Saltzman Creek and Tanner Creek are in Good condition.
Whether a water source is in Impaired or Good condition refers to the quality of these uses:
- Drinking Water
- Aquatic Life
- Fish and Shellfish Consumption
Learn more from How’s My Waterway
See below for what you can do to improve Portland’s water.
Conclusion – What Can You Do?
Information about water quality can be surprising.
But there’s no reason to lose hope. There are things you can do in your household as well as things you can do at a community level.
In Your Household:
- Use Berkey filters with activated carbon to filter out 8 of the 11 contaminants in your drinking water.
- Berkey filters can also remove up to 99.99% of Lead in Portland water.
- Brita can filter 2 contaminants (and Lead depending on the filter).
- Note: We may receive a commission if you decide to purchase filters through links on this page.
- To filter out 9 of the 11 contaminants, consider a Reverse Osmosis water filtration system for your house.
- These are more expensive than pitchers to purchase, but can be more effective.
- They have the benefit of filtering out heavy hitters like:
- Arsenic – health effects in water
- Barium – In low doses, barium ions act as a muscle stimulant, and higher doses affect the nervous system, causing cardiac irregularities, tremors, weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath, and paralysis.
- Haloacetic acids – chlorination byproduct*
- Hexavalent chromium – health effects
- Total trihalomethanes – byproduct of chlorination*
*Chlorination is an effective method of disinfecting/treating drinking water. You can then use a water filter to reduce the effects of chlorination byproducts to get the safest, cleanest water possible.
In Your Community:
Contact your local government officials and put pressure on them to invest in cleaner waterways and upgraded city water filtration and treatment.
Go to: https://www.portland.gov/ to find contact information for your local officials.