Water System Information

Keep Your Water Flowing

Over the past year, we have highlighted our water system and its challenges including repairs, upgrades and replacements of its aging system; and the benefits of "right-sizing" and expanding the system to improve resiliency in the system and meet growing demands. While the City has operated and maintained the system sufficiently to provide quality, reliable water to our customers, it is becoming increasingly more difficult. The fatigued and aging infrastructure, along with our growing community, increase Oregon City's risk of not meeting the community water consumption demands.

Highlighted Vulnerabilities in Our System

  • As wildfires swept toward Oregon City on Labor Day weekend in 2020, it was unclear if we would have enough water to combat the fire threat.
  • A few months later, combined ice and wind knocked out power to the South Fork Water Treatment Plant - our water supply source on the Clackamas River. Without water being delivered from South Fork for three days, Oregon City relied on its stored water in city reservoirs. The City issued a request for water curtailment to help manage water reservoirs that came within a few feet of being empty.

The job of our reservoirs (storage tanks) is to ensure that we can meet customers' needs all year, around the clock, wherever those customers live or do business. Oregon City's amount of water storage and undersized pipes hamper the City's ability to serve every customer equally during the dry season, which is typically June through September. It's even harder when fires flare up requiring an immense volume of water, at high pressure, to fight the fires. Oregon City has identified two new reservoirs strategically located to provide an additional three million gallons of water. In addition, larger water pipes and pumps would be built to get the water to the reservoirs. This added water storage will ensure that everyone receives safe, reliable drinking water - no matter where they are - even in the summer months.

Water system improvements to address challenges and requirements are identified in the City's Water Master Plan, which was completed in 2012 and amended in January 2021. The plan identifies $81 million in improvements to strengthen the water system and improve its ability to recover from wildfires, major storms, and drought while providing everyone safe, reliable water for years to come.

How You Can Help

Conservation: Conserving water by reducing usage helps ensure adequate water for all residents during challenging times, such as hot weather periods and wildfires.

Investment: Paying your water bill helps fund the water system improvements. Annual water rate increases have been held to the 3% Charter limit in recent years. Fully funding improvements requires water rate increases above the 3% Charter limit, which must be referred to the voters.

The City seeks to take a balanced approach to fully fund the improvements by minimizing the required rate increase above the 3% Charter limit by borrowing money. Authorization to borrow money must also be referred to voters, per the City Charter. Borrowing money will enable the City to apply for low-interest federal and state loans, such as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).

With the postponement of projects due to restricted funding, large investments are required within the next 10 years. Financing these large costs through loans, bonds, and/or Federal loan programs provide options to minimize the required rate increases to the customer with repayment done over a 20-to-30-year period. Borrowing also provides large amounts of money at one time, allowing projects to be completed earlier than waiting to save enough money.

More About Your Water System