Gresham City Council has taken the first step toward a break from the Bull Run Reservoir, approving a partnership that will begin the process of creating a new system to supply the city with drinking water.
During a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 6, councilors unanimously voted to form an intergovernmental agreement with the Rockwood People's Utility District to develop a groundwater system. The union between the city and Rockwood PUD will allow the partnership to apply for federal funds and mitigate future rate increases.
Part of the decision to not renew a contract with the city of Portland to remain linked into the Bull Run system was to avoid looming rate increases. A new filtration plant will go online in 2027 at the Bull Run Reservoir, and while the upgrades will allow for more consistent water quality during heavy rain and other natural events, it will also lead to a significant cost increase for customers, including wholesale buyers like the city of Gresham.
On top of price increases, the city of Gresham would be on the hook for about $100 million in capital funds to complete the almost $1 billion facility.
Other wholesale buyers have also balked at the increased costs. Tualatin Valley Water District plans to significantly cut its purchase of Bull Run water, as does Rockwood Water.
Now the city will begin moving forward with constructing a groundwater system estimated to cost about $65 million. Gresham will be able to offer significantly lower rates to customers, and follow the lead of cities like Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview — all of which currently use groundwater. Gresham would also be in control of the water supply quality decisions, such as whether or not to fluoridate.
Gresham's water supply contract with the city of Portland will expire in 2026.
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