Roughly one in four Oregonians gets their drinking water from the same remarkable source: the protected Bull Run watershed in the Mount Hood National Forest.
For years, the Bull Run has provided most of the drinking water for the city of Portland — and a steady revenue source for the Portland Water Bureau, which sells city water to dozens of smaller communities.
These wholesale customers currently make up about 40% of the demand for water and about 10% of the bureau's gross annual revenue.
But the demand for Portland's water is shifting dramatically as the city prepares to build and pay for a new treatment plant that will cost in the ballpark of $1 billion. Four of the five largest wholesale customers are looking at switching to other sources and scaling back or not renewing their 20-year purchase agreements with the city.
Several factors are driving the shift, including a new plan to use the Willamette River to supply drinking water to the growing communities in Washington County and the steep cost of Portland's proposed filtration plant.
If wholesale customers end their contracts — and in the process avoid sharing in the capital cost of the new plant — that could mean even higher future bills for residential customers in Portland.
OPB is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their full story here.
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