Sources of Drinking Water

Oregonians are pretty confident they know the sources of their drinking water, and many even name the source in an open-ended question.

From November 10–19, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ confidence in their ability to identify their communities’ drinking water sources. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire. Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs.

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroups variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions.

OVBC surveys currently use aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying three documents, available to download at the bottom of the page: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations document, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet (available upon request).

Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (OVBC): This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute.

OVBC has conducted other research regarding Oregonians’ values and beliefs related to water, including:

Are Oregonians Knowledgeable about Their Drinking Water Sources?

Just over one-half of Oregonians say they are confident that they know where their drinking water comes from (Q63).

  • Older folks are more likely to say they definitely know where their drinking water comes from than younger folks. Oregonians under the age of 45 are most likely to say they could make a guess or don’t know at all.
  • College graduates, those 65 or older, and those who live in rural areas are most likely to say they know where their drinking water comes from.
  • Nearly six in ten Oregonians with children say they know where their water comes from while those without children are not so sure.
  • White Oregonians are more likely than their BIPOC neighbors to say they know where their drinking water comes from, which might be because BIPOC respondents are on the younger side.
  • Those living in rural and suburban areas are significantly more likely to know where their water comes from than Oregonians living in urban areas.
  • Men in Oregon are more confident they know where their drinking water comes from than women.

In Their Own Words: Where do Oregonians say their water comes from?

Oregonians cited many sources for their water supplies. The following were the most frequently mentioned (Q64):

Additional processing for Oregonians living in Portland was conducted because of the larger subgroup sample size (n = 339), as well as there being only one primary source of drinking water. When asked if they know where their drinking water comes from (Q63), half say they definitely know, one in four say they could guess, and the remaining one in four say they don’t know (all at the same rate for Oregonians at large). Of those who say they know or could guess where their drinking water comes from, 65% correctly mention “Bull Run” (Q64).  

“Bull Run, though we did switch over to well water recently and I don’t know where the wells are.”

Man, age 45-54, Portland, Hispanic/Latino/x

“Bull Run Watershed – Portland city water. Sometimes Portland uses a backup well system.”

Woman, age 65-74, Portland, White

“The Bull Run Reservoir”

Man, age 18-29, Portland, Asian and White

“Bull Run Watershed. During drier periods that is supplemented by well water from the Columbia River aquifer.”

Man, age 65-74, Portland, White

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,554 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample ±2.48%. Due to rounding or multiple answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.

For More Information: