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The Bull Run Watershed is the primary drinking water supply for the City of Portland and its 20 wholesale customers. Water from the Bull Run serves more than 950,000 residents in the Portland metropolitan region.
The protected Bull Run Watershed is located 26 miles from downtown Portland in the Sandy River basin on the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The 102 square-mile protected Bull Run Watershed collects water from rain and snowmelt that then flows to the Bull Run River and its tributaries. The river drains into two reservoirs, where more than 17 billion gallons are stored. The Portland Water Bureau treats the water before it enters into the three conduits that transport it to Portland. The water moves through the system by gravity, requiring no fossil fuel consumption to move water from its intake to the main storage reservoir at Powell Butte.
The entire watershed has been managed under increasing levels of protection since it was established as a Forest Reserve in 1892. In 2001 the protection boundary was extended by federal law, and both the watershed and the protected buffer lands are known as the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit (BRWMU). No unauthorized public entry is allowed inside the BRWMU and all land management activities are limited to only those necessary to protect water quality and operate the water supply and hydroelectric power facilities.
The majority of lands within the BRWMU are under federal ownership (96%) and the rest are owned by the City of Portland. The BRWMU is carefully managed to sustain and supply clean drinking water to a quarter of Oregon’s population.
Find out what is happening in the watershed right now.
Learn about Bull Run's wildlife, forests and climate.