Few other cities in the world have water as pure and as well protected as Portland. For nearly 115 years, an ingenious, gravity-fed system has delivered mountain rainwater from an isolated river called the Bull Run. Yet the rich history of Portland’s water supply has unfolded largely unbeknownst to the people it serves.
For 115 years, Portland, Oregon has enjoyed some of the purest and best-tasting drinking water of any large American city. The water is diverted from a river in a very wet area of the Cascade Range, a small, isolated watershed with high levels of rain and snow. The river, the lake that feeds it and the surrounding forested slopes all share the same name: Bull Run.
The Bull Run watershed drains about 100 square miles. It boasts beautiful views of Mt Hood, lush old-growth forest and one of the prettiest big dams in Oregon. But to protect the water from contamination, the entire area has long been closed to public access. Bull Run water serves nearly 25% of all Oregonians. Yet this program may be many viewers’ first real look at the source of their drinking water.
“Bull Run” combines old photographs and charts with modern aerial footage and GIS mapping. Casey Short, author of the only full-length book on Bull Run, recounts its early history. And Dave Rowley, one of the few people to have actually lived in the watershed, shares stories from his childhood there.
Other people in the program include: Catherine Howells, a water historian who teaches courses on Bull Run at Portland State University; Rick McClure, a regional historian for the U.S. Forest Service; Richard Robbins, Natural Resource Program Manager for the Portland Water Bureau; and the Bureau’s Chief Engineer, Michael Stuhr.
Broadcast Date: July 22, 2010