New River, Desert Hills look to water utility to solve supply problem

(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Residents in the New River and Desert Hills communities are hoping a utility can solve their water problems.

Many of the rural residents rely on wells that have been drying up. The residents have been paying water haulers to deliver water to their tanks, but the City of Phoenix will turn off the taps by the end of the year. As a result, haulers will have to drive farther out to collect water from Scottsdale and Peoria and customers will be forced to pay increased rates.

“In the short term, we want to make sure these folks have water that is accessible,” says Maricopa County supervisor Bill Gates. He held a community meeting Tuesday with an Epcor Water representative in attendance. Gates has asked the utility to expand its service area to provide affordable water to New River and Desert Hills residents.

But Epcor cannot expand its service area without approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission.

“I’d be more than happy to go to the commission and talk to those commissioners,” says Gates.

“We're still looking into all of that,” says Troy Day, vice president of Operations for Epcor Water. “It's going to require us to extend our infrastructure and basically make a water hauling station.”

Day was not able to discuss costs and feasibility because, he said, the discussion is in the early stages. Some residents are skeptical that Epcor would commit to the project and whether the utility would be the answer to the long-term problem of increased development putting pressure on existing wells.

“If you do come out and buy and build multiple houses, you have to have water,” says New River resident Ron Bentley. “If you don't have water, you don’t get a permit.”

Bentley buys, sells, and trains horses. Without an affordable and reliable water supply to care for multiple horses, he would have to trim down his operation and lose money.

“My well can supply a normal household and eight or 10 heads of horses,” says Bentley. “But that would mean we can’t bring all of our babies down from the north country which would hurt us economically.”

Arizona Corporation Commission spokesperson Angie Holdsworth says if Epcor Water files for a certificate of convenience and necessity to expand its service area, it would take about 120 days to come to a commission vote. Holdsworth says commissioners would consider whether the utility can provide the needed service and whether the service is in the best interest of the public.

Hundreds of residents were expected to attend a meeting at the Anthem Civic Building Tuesday, September 19, where they will hear from an Arizona Department of Water Resources representative.

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