EPCOR Calls New River/Desert Hills Water Crisis ‘An Emergency Situation’

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UPDATES: The situation faced by rural residents has changed since the publication of this article. Click here for the latest articles on this topic. The article below remains as originally published.


The water utility EPCOR called the City of Phoenix’s impending shutoff of a water supply to residents of New River and Desert Hills “an emergency situation” and asked the Arizona Corporation Commission to help fast-track a solution.

EPCOR, which provides water to the east side of Anthem, is not obligated in the matter. But a grassroots group of residents, along with county officials and the governor’s office, have been discussing possible solutions for weeks now, and sought the utility’s assistance. On Dec. 31, Phoenix plans to stop allowing water haulers to use hydrants as a supply of potable water delivered to non-residents. 

Last week EPCOR confirmed it was interested in purchasing vacant land from Anthem at the border of Anthem and Desert Hills, along Desert Hills Drive, to install a water-hauling station where trucks could fill up with potable water. The property is near Fire Station 145, just east of Meridian Drive in Anthem.

Jason Gellman of EPCOR sent a letter to the Corporation Commission, dated Oct. 4, notifying it of “an emergency situation where EPCOR … seeks whatever authority necessary” to provide the service.

“These residents are left with few viable options and the present status is dire,” Gellman said in the letter. Commission rules allow for a utility “to provide emergency service to an area contiguous to its service territory,” he said, adding that the vacant parcel is “just outside of and contiguous to” the utility’s territory.

It’s estimated that as many as 1,500 homes in New River and Desert Hills, maybe more, rely on trucked water. More are likely in the future, North Phoenix News reported a month ago, as the local aquifer has been dropping for decades and some wells in the area are drying up.

Gellman proposed charging $9.55 per thousand gallons, a rate that would “ensure that Anthem and all [EPCOR] customers will not be adversely impacted,” he said, adding that residents could haul water themselves or have it hauled. 

Gellman characterized the the plan as “a water-hauling arrangement in the near term, pending a long-term and permanent solution.”

The Corporation Commission has not yet responded to the letter, EPCOR spokesperson Rebecca Stenholm told North Phoenix News today. Anthem Community Council called a special board of directors meeting for Thursday, Oct. 12 to consider the proposal along with other pressing business. An EPCOR rep is expected to attend.

Anthem Community Council Special Meeting
4 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 12
Anthem Civic Building
3701 W. Anthem Way
623-742-6000
www.onlineatanthem.com

Previous Articles About the Rural Water Woes

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Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.

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