Portland Water Quality: Yesterday
Pioneers William Overton and Asa Lovejoy discovered the site for Portland on a 1840s canoe expedition. By 1862, residents recognized that private wells wouldn’t be sufficient to sustain the growing population and established a system to pipe water to residents from Caruthers Creek, Balch Creek, and Willamette River. However, by 1886, waste from upstream factories and towns caused a pollution crisis. City planners set about creating a gravity-flow system from Bull Run River and the surrounding watershed, which would provide enough drinking water for the growing city for years to come.
Once Portland city officials had established an abundant water source from the Bull Run River, they turned their attention to protecting the water supply from contamination from the local logging industry. The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 was enacted to prohibit settlement in the 142,000-acre Bull Run National Forest, which surrounds The Bull Run River. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Bull Run Trespass Act to further protect the reserve and water supply.