The Early Years
The 1920s were a fertile time and Rockwood was growing, just like the rest of Multnomah County. Without a reliable water supply, the community could not continue the transition from farms to houses. A few early visionaries championed the idea of a Water Special District, which would bring water (and indoor plumbing) to all the houses of the area, and so began our history. An election to form the Rockwood Water District and elect Directors was held on October 14, 1922. By a vote of 263 to 224 the District was formed and the first five Directors of the District were elected. However, the Oregon Supreme Court declared that election void, so it was not until a second election on April 4, 1925 that the Rockwood Water District was officially created.
The first order of business was to develop a water supply. The District built its first well in 1926 and its second in 1931. In 1937 it sold bonds and built a reservoir on Grant Butte. The District continued to grow throughout the 1930s as owners of former farmland, which was turned into subdivisions, requested annexation into the Water District (Multhauf Acres and Ritlow Acres in 1939).
By 1943, the Rockwood Water District had 997 service connections in use and needed additional water supply. While the wells had met its needs until then, it became clear the most viable source of additional water supply was the City of Portland Bull Run system. A conduit from the watershed passed through the District. Thus, in 1943 Rockwood signed its first contract with Portland for water supply and has continued to do so ever since. In fact, the District’s current contract with Portland does not expire until 2026 and is renewable.
In 1949 when the District renewed its contract with Portland, the District had to build a 200,000 gallon storage reservoir. It built an elevated tank at 141st and Glisan.
The Commissioners who ran the District in the 1930s were dedicated to their jobs. They, like Walter Quesinberry, a mainstay of the early days, set precedent for excellent service and financial management that continue to this day.
The Growth Years
While the District experienced growth from its creation in 1925 to 1950, the chart shows the growth spurt of the next 25 years: 1950 to 1975. During that 25-year stretch, the number of service connections quintupled from about 2,000 to 10,000.
There is a direct correlation between customer growth and system infrastructure required to meet the increasing demand. The expansion of storage capacity to meet both distribution and fire protection requirements is clear evidence of system capital enhancements built by the District during the growth years.
The Modern Years
Between 1975 and the present the District has continued to grow in population and expand its water system infrastructure to meet that demand. In 2001 it built the Bella Vista reservoir, adding 10 MG of storage to the system. Among the District’s most notable investments was the development of a groundwater supply to provide reliability in the event of a loss of supply from Portland. Toward that end, three wells were developed (one in partnership with the City of Gresham) in 2003 and 2009, adding 11 MG to District supply capacity.
Over the years the water system has grown to 165 miles of pipe; 1,100 fire hydrants; 2,500 valves; 13 emergency interties and seven connections to Portland’s Bull Run conduits.
Sound Asset Management, Master Planning, Capital Improvement Planning and Financial Planning will ensure their reliability and longevity.
People’s Utility District History
While the Water District was officially formed in 1925, the People’s Utility District was created in 1990. Had it not formed the People’s Utility District, its territory would have been annexed by the cities of Gresham, Portland and Fairview. On May 15, 1990 residents of the District voted to form a People’s Utility District; ensuring its continued existence as an autonomous local government.
The creation of a Water People’s Utility District was unique. Consider the fact that during the 1980s and 90s six water districts (Rose City, Parkrose, Richland, Hazelwood, Gilbert, and Powell Valley Road) that had provided service in Multnomah County for decades were annexed and dissolved. Only Rockwood remains.
As a PUD it has continued to espouse the values upon which it was established in the first place: autonomy and independence; customer service and connection; financial and rate management; planning for and ensuring water system reliability and water availability as population and demand grow.
Results from the customer attitude survey in 2013 show its customers rate the District high on all aspects of its operations, including customer service, reliability and water quality.
Click here to view our Field Operations Video.
Click here to view our Evolution Video.
Click here to view our Historical Formation Video.
Click here to print and read our History Brochure.
Click here to read about our Open House event article by David Ashton in East Portland News.
Notice of Election
Click here to see the original Notice of Special Election to form Rockwood Water in 1922.
List of Directors
Click here to see our Board members through history.
Directors Through History
Click here to see historical factoids about some of our Board members and staff.
Water Supply History
Click here to see the history of our water supply.
Rockwood Grange Hall
Click here to read about the history of the Rockwood Grange Hall.
Click here to see the role Zimm’s had in our history.
1970s Aerial Photo of Original Office Location
Click here to view an aerial photo taken in 1970 of our original office location across from the Rockwood Grange Hall.
Grant Butte Reservoir
Click here to view the history of Rockwood’s first reservoir.
A Tale of Two Reservoirs
Click here to read the story!
People’s Utility District Formation
Click here to view the resolution to put the measure to approve the formation of a People’s Utility District (PUD) on the May 15, 1990 ballot.
People’s Utility District Formation
Click here to see the ballot results of the May 1990 election for form a People’s Utility District (PUD).
Click here to see the official proclamation declaring the District as an official PUD!
Population, Growth and Demand
Click here to see information about our population, growth, water demand, and infrastructure.
List of Reservoirs
Click here to view photos and get information about our storage reservoirs.
Click here to view photos and get information about our groundwater supply.
Portland’s Water Supply
Click here to get information about our relationship with the City of Portland and their water supply.