Groundwater: Portland’s ‘critical drinking water resource’

Special Reports

Groundwater 101 a free educational workshop that puts focus on preserving Portland's secondary drinking water source

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s backup water resource may not be visible to the naked eye, but officials say its preservation is important.

Educating people about the groundwater located hundreds of feet beneath populated urban areas is the main goal of Groundwater 101, a free workshop about the various underground aquifers from which Portland’s Columbia South Shore Well Field draws. It’s being put on by Portland Water Bureau and Columbia Slough Watershed Council this Saturday.

Portland’s secondary drinking water source of groundwater is located right in town, as opposed to its primary water source, Bull Run Watershed, which is located 26 miles east of Portland. January 21 2020 (Portland Water Bureau).

“Our groundwater resource–it’s out of sight and it can be out of mind. And Groundwater 101 is one of the ways that we’re working to reverse that,” explained Doug Wise, PWB’s Groundwater Protection Program Manager. “This is a critical drinking water resource for the region, just like Bull Run. And we want to make sure it’s protected for future generations to the same level.”

Portland’s primary drinking water resource, Bull Run Watershed, is located 26 miles east of Portland in the foothills of Mount Hood. It is federally protected and there aren’t sources of pollution there. Portland’s groundwater resources are a different story, Wise explained.

The groundwater supply is located along the Columbia River in Northeast Portland, Gresham and Fairview beneath where thousands of residents live, work and play. That includes the Troutdale Sandstone, Sand and Gravel and Blue Lake Aquifers.

Columbia South Shore Well Field draws drinking water from a groundwater source that is located directly below parts of Portland, Gresham and Fairview. January 21, 2020 (Portland Water Bureau).

“We have to protect that resource through education and pollution prevention and that’s part of what Groundwater 101 is. It’s how we educate the people who live and work around that water supply, about its importance and what they can do to manage hazardous materials safely to keep that drinking water supply clean,” Wise said.

The workshop is for participants that are high school age and up and includes interactive elements, such as a basic chemistry test for water hardness, which can give a clue about the origin of water sources. Geology, natural history, and being more informed about our local groundwater source will be the main focus.

The free educational event is happening this Saturday, January 25 from 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mckinstry Company 16790 NE Mason St. in Portland. Visit Columbia Slough Watershed Council’s website to register.

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