‘Rockwood Water’ celebrates 90 years of service

You might be surprised at how much of outer East Portland is served by this ‘community owned’ water district …

Centennial Community Association Chair Tom Lewis, also Board Chair of his water district, points out the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District boundaries on a map.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

When told that the Rockwood Water People’s Utility District (RWPUD) was about to celebrate a milestone anniversary, we almost passed this story by because their “water works” and offices are located east of Portland – in northeast Gresham.

“Actually, 41% of our water connections are in Portland,” remarked RWPUD General Manager Michael Rosenberger, as he welcomed visitors to the office on May 30.

“This means we serve about 25,700 outer East Portland residents in the Glenfair and Centennial neighborhoods,” Rosenberger pointed out.

RWPUD District Superintendent Andy Crocker showed some of the remote monitoring stations in the Operations Control Center.

This year, RWPUD is celebrating a “dual anniversary”, Rosenberger told East Portland News. “We’re celebrating 90 years of providing drinking water to customers, and 25 years of being a ‘People’s Utility District’.

For 70 years, or so, the Rockwood Water District was considered a “special district”, serving the mid-County area. “In order to being prevented being annexed by Portland or Gresham, the RWPUD was formed by a vote of the people, as allowed under State law,” Rosenberger explained. “Now this district is governed by an elected board of five people.”

Surrounded by huge water pipes, RWPUD General Manager Michael Rosenberger stands in the Mixing Station, where water sources are combined and sanitized.

The primary water source is the City of Portland, coming directly the Bull Run Reservoir, through giant pipes, diverted before the water travels up to Powell Butte. It’s supplemented by the Columbia South Shore well field, which they further augment with their own wells.

The water is stored in reservoirs and tanks, so the service lines are pressurized by gravity, instead of pumps.

When necessary, these powerful units in the Cascade Groundwater Pump Station propel millions of gallons of water up into RWPUD’s reservoirs and tanks in located in their service area

“We expect to have plenty of water, even in a long dry summer season,” Rosenberger said.

According to their records, quite a bit of their piping was put in during the building boom of the 1950s.

“So, a lot of our plant is about 65 years old, in those areas,” said RWPUD District Superintendent Andy Crocker. “And a lot of it was installed in the 1970s. So, relatively speaking, we have a fairly new plant.”

RWPUD Board Member Don McCarthy, who worked 32 years for the Powell Valley Water District before it was assimilated by the City of Portland, shows a section of broken pipe, installed in 1954, that was replaced.

However, the older parts of the system were put in the ground during the1940s, Crocker said. “We keep our eye on those areas.”

One of the benefits of getting water from RWPUD, Rosenberger noted, is lower rates than the Water Bureaus of Portland, Gresham, and Fairview. “We’re the lowest in the metropolitan area. We attribute that to the fact that we are fairly small and specialize in our service, and are also very efficient.

“And, our Board is concerned with keeping rates as low as they can be, at the same time providing a high level of service,” Rosenberger added.

Congratulations to RWPUD on successfully providing water for so many years! For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

-6 Need a drink? This tank in the RWPUD yard is typically stocked with about 4 million gallons of water.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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