Every week, Oregon Experience shares a photo highlighting the state’s diverse, exciting history.
Early Portlanders first relied on small, neighborhood wells for drinking water and later drew water from the Willamette River for everyday use. But toward the end of the 19th Century, as the Willamette grew ever more polluted, residents looked beyond the city limits for a new, clean supply.
The Bull Run watershed sits about 30 miles east of Portland, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountain Range, and produces remarkably pure water. In 1895, workers completed an ingeniously-engineered delivery system to transport the water into town. The water was piped into four open reservoirs, two on the east side of Mount Tabor and two more in Southwest Portland, high in Washington Park.
For 120 years, Portland’s Bull Run water system has evolved — both at the source and in the city — to keep pace with the increasing population. Additional legal protections now keep the watershed safe from degradation. But as the original open reservoirs give way to new, underground storage facilities, the same good-tasting Bull Run water continues to flow from every faucet in town.
Watch the Oregon Experience documentary “Bull Run” to learn more about where Portland’s water comes from.