Water Quality FAQs
Clackamas River Water serves portions of Clackamas, Milwaukie, Happy Valley, Portland, Oregon City, and unincorporated Clackamas County, divided into two service areas. Customers in the Clackamas (North) Service Area receive water from the Clackamas River that is treated at the CRW treatment plant. Customers in our Clairmont (South) Service Area receive water that comes from the Clackamas River and is purchased from South Fork Water Board. Please refer to the service area map to determine which service area you are in.
Clackamas River Water takes pride in the quality of water we deliver to our customers. We take hundreds of water samples each year to monitor the quality of your drinking water. The water delivered to your home or place of business is equal to or better than all the regulatory standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oregon Health Department.
For more information, visit the Water Quality Reports & Data page.
The Clackamas River begins at an elevation of 4,909 feet on the western slopes of the Cascade Range in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Forty-seven miles of the river are federally protected as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Clackamas River Watershed drains nearly 940 square miles of forests, mountain meadows, farmlands, suburban neighborhoods, and light industrial areas before meeting with the Willamette River. More than 300,000 Oregonians rely on the Clackamas River for high quality drinking water, hydroelectric power, and outdoor recreation.
Customers in the Clackamas (North) Service Area receive water from the Clackamas River. Customers in our Clairmont (South) Service Area receive water that comes from the Clackamas River and is purchased from South Fork Water Board. The water is then treated with chlorine prior to entering the distribution system.
Brown or discolored water is caused by minerals, sediment, or rust that may accumulate in the water mains over time. When the water from your tap is brown this indicates a disturbance in the water main that stirs up these deposits. Such hydraulic disturbances are often caused by fire hydrant use or routine flushing events designed to keep the pipes clean, however main breaks and/or adjacent construction can also stir up these sediments and cause the water to be brown. Usually the water will clear on its own within a few hours.
If your water is brown:
- Don't drink the water. It may not be harmful, but we don't advise drinking discolored or dirty water.
- Avoid using hot water until the pipes clear to avoid drawing dirty water into the hot water tank.
- After an hour or so, run the cold water for several minutes to see if it is clear. When one faucet runs clear, run the cold water through all home faucets until each is clear. This step will eliminate the dirty water that may have been drawn into your pipes.
- If the condition of your water does not improve within a few hours call the CRW Water Quality Department at 503-722-9241.
Most often white particles in your drinking water are the result of the dip tube in your hot water heater disintegrating. The dip tube is a long tube inside the water heater that brings water from the cold water pipe down to the heating element the base of the water heater. Many hot water heaters from 1990's were made with plastic dip tubes which gradually break down overtime and find their way into your pipes.
The majority of these particles are white, but sometimes household plumbing components can alter their color. For example, copper plumbing can turn the particles blue/green and galvanized iron can turn them a reddish color. The particles are not toxic or harmful but eventually, the particles build up and clog faucet screens, hot water hoses connected to appliances, and even shower heads. The dip tube will eventually need to be replaced as the hot water heater loses efficiency. To do this, contact a local plumber or the manufacturer of your hot water heater for more information.
White or tan particles can be a combination of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate; this material is often referred to as pipe scale. Calcium and magnesium carbonates are naturally occurring minerals and are found in varying concentrations in most waters around the world. These minerals are not a health threat; in fact, they are beneficial to human health. The concentration of these minerals in the water determines the hardness of the water; higher mineral concentrations make the water harder. Over time, these minerals can deposit on the inside of your pipes and then begin to flake off.
How can you tell if your particles are from a disintegrating dip tube or mineral build up?
Take a few particles and put them in a glass with vinegar. The minerals will dissolve; the plastic dip tube particles will not.
Brown, black, or orange particles are usually small pieces of rusted steel that have broken off the inside of your water pipes (particularly if your house has aging galvanized iron) or the water mains. These particles are very hard, irregular in size and shape. They consist of mostly iron and are not a health hazard. They can however become a nuisance if they clog your washing machine screens, shower heads, and/or the aerators at the ends of your faucets. Black particles can also be the result of a broken water filter, degrading faucet washer or gasket, or disintegrating black rubber from an old flexible supply line hose.
If the particles are very hard, similar in size and shape, and might be described as large coffee grounds, they are most likely granular activated carbon (GAC) from the inside of a water filter. Replace the filter cartridge according to the manufacturer's specifications. If the particles are oily or sooty in texture they most likely the result of an aging flexible supply line hose. Over time the rubber breaks down, replace the hose with another that has a water disinfection resistant lining or change to a different style of hose that is not made of black rubber.
Chlorine is added to drinking water supplies to ensure that the water delivered is safe from bacterial contamination. CRW checks the chlorine levels in the distribution system regularly; however some customers are more sensitive to the taste and smell of chlorine than others. If the taste and/or smell are displeasing allow the water to stand for about 20 minutes in a pitcher in the refrigerator before drinking. This will allow excess chlorine to vaporize away nearly eliminating the chlorine taste of the water.
Your water meter has a needle that turns like the second hand of a clock. Each time it goes around, one cubit foot of water (or 7.48 gallons) has been used. All water meters also have a small triangle-shaped dial that has no values around it, but it will detect small water flows.
To determine if you have a leak, do the following steps:
- Turn off water sources being used in the house or any water features in your yard.
- Note the position of the dial on the water meter.
- Do not use any water for 20 minutes and if the triangle-shaped dial indicator has not moved, you can feel comfortable that you do not have a leak.
- If this indicator needle has moved, start checking your hose connections, toilets, faucets, sprinkler systems, or any water features for drips or running water.
The cost to keep your lawn green in the summer will vary with the size of the lawn and whether you apply more water than is needed. Published average usage in the summer excludes those with very large lawns and expansive landscapes. However, a good rule of thumb is to look at your winter water bill and then multiply by 3. You can expect to use that much or more on your lawn and other outside uses in the summer. For an estimate of the minimum amount of water needed to keep your lawn green, click here.