Community members enjoyed an afternoon at the slough last Friday, where they learned about the efforts made to protect one of the region's important sources of drinking water.
The event, held Aug. 18 at the Columbia Slough, 16650 N.E. Airport Way, was hosted by the Portland Water Bureau and Columbia Slough Watershed Council.
"With our system, we are lucky to get a lot of water because of where we live," said Doug Wise, groundwater protection program manager for the Portland Water Bureau. "We live in a reservoir-rich area, but we have to manage it carefully."
The Columbia South Shore Well Field, located north of Interstate 84 and east of Interstate 205, provides water to Portland, Fairview, Gresham and many other communities. It serves as a secondary source to supplement the Bull Run watershed.
Groundwater is used when the Bull Run storage can't meet demand, augmenting the supply.
Groundwater is an important resource that supplies drinking water to almost half of the country. The water is pumped from aquifers — underground layers of porous rock, like sand or gravel, where the water is collected and protected.
Most the system is run using gravity. Groundwater is pumped, using one of 26 active facilities, up to the Powell Butte reservoirs, where it then flows to the rest of the region. In this way, up to 100 million gallons can be moved to Powell Butte from the Columbia Slough facility each day.
The local aquafers were formed several million years ago when several Missoula Floods swept the area with water — enough that downtown Portland would have had water levels 350 feet higher than the current surface.
"There are only so many geologic places where we can generate 100 million gallons of drinking water, and here, it happens to coexist with a lot of businesses and residential areas," Wise said.
To protect the groundwater, the cities of Fairview, Gresham and Portland all implemented a groundwater protection program to guard the drinking water. The goal is to prevent chemical spills, with a focus on containment, prevention and management practices.
"By having all the groups at the table, we have very little non-compliance," Wise said.
Get your eyepatches and parrots ready for a free family event dedicated to celebrating the importance of groundwater and all things pirates.
Aquifer Adventure will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at the corner of Airport Way and Northeast 166th. There will be canoe rides, games, food to purchase, and free T-shirts for the first 300 kids to arrive.
The event is sponsored by the Portland Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council. For more information contact the Watershed Council at 503-281-1132 or visit its website at www.columbiaslough.org.