Agua Fria customers fired up over high water bills

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. -- Diane Brodsky who lives in the Cross River Neighborhood is so worried about her water bill, she conserves at every opportunity.

"I put it out when it’s pouring rain and collect rain water with these," Brodsky explained while holding empty buckets in her garage.

She’s fearful of even flushing the toilet.

"I just see dollar signs," Diane Brodsky admitted.

"I’m on a fixed income," said Gary Brodsky. "Water bill itself is 15 percent of my income."

The Brodskys, who live in an unincorporated county island, are part of the Agua Fria Water District. They along with hundreds of other district customers packed an overflowing meeting with water provider, EPCOR.

Consumers claim Agua Fria homeowners pay the highest water and wastewater rates in Arizona.

"This discrimination affects the lives of senior citizens and disabled people, as well," said one speaker at Wednesday night’s meeting.

"We’re not lining anybody’s pockets," said Jim McKee, EPCOR Vice President of Corporate Services. "We just ask for a return on investment, recovery of operation costs."

McKee said rates for water in the Agua Fria District are comparable to other districts. However, he admits wastewater costs are high. He blames deconsolidation; the fact Anthem broke off into a separate district last year.

"When you’ve got very few people, still have to serve them with state of the art water treatment to meet regulation requirements of the ADEQ and so on, it does result in a higher than typical waste water bill," said Jim McKee.

3TV reviewed a monthly bill of the Brodsky household. With minimal water usage, the water portion of the bill was under $30. However, the wastewater portion totaled nearly $80 of a $101.79 bill.

"If it goes up anymore than it is, it’s going to take a big debt," said Brodsky.

He and his wife are now seriously considering moving. He believes others will as well, if rates don’t go down.

"There’s going to be an exodus of people leaving and no influx," said Brodsky. "You’re going to end up with a ghost town."

A spokesperson for the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates and approves utility rates, said a rate change would have to be petitioned by the company.

EPCOR said the earliest possibility of a new rate case would likely be the end of 2014.

However, McKee said representatives from EPCOR plan to meet with the Arizona Corporation Commission to discuss concerns raised at the community meeting.