EPCOR Hits Pause Button on Plan to Solve Rural Water Problem

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EPCOR’s proposed location for the water-hauling station (right) and an alternative site suggested by others (left).

After some Desert Hills residents objected last week to the location of a water-hauling station that EPCOR proposed building on Anthem property, and an alternate solution was suggested, the water utility has put the entire plan on hold.

“We’re just taking a bit of a step back to let the community decide what they want to do,” said EPCOR spokesperson Rebecca Stenholm. The utility is not giving up on the idea, Stenholm told North Phoenix News today.

Some 1,500 rural residents who rely on trucked-in water could be affected by the decision if the City of Phoenix shuts off the current supply, as planned, after Dec. 31.

The decision to step back was communicated to the grassroots group New River/Desert Hills Water by Troy Day, EPCOR vice president of operations. The group, which had supported EPCOR’s proposal and expected to see it become reality, had been in talks with Phoenix to potentially extend the shut-off deadline assuming the EPCOR plan moved forward and a few weeks were needed to bridge the water-delivery gap until the station was built.

“If EPCOR abandons their decision to build a water station, the City of Phoenix has no reason to extend the Dec. 31, 2017 deadline for shutting off hydrant access to water haulers,” the group stated in a letter to members today. “As a community, many of us took for granted EPCOR’s involvement in providing us with a water source, which is something they didn’t have to do. They have been telling us that they were doing this to help their neighbors.”

What Changed

At its monthly meeting Oct. 15, Anthem Community Council voted to proceed in offering EPCOR an option to lease an acre of Anthem property bordering Desert Hills Drive, on which to build the water-hauling station. But in a last-minute twist based on input from rural residents at the meeting, ACC included a two-week waiting period for EPCOR to look into two options:

  • Move the station west along Desert Hills Drive, per a suggestion from a nearby resident concerned about dust, noise and safety.
  • Explore another option presented toward the end of the meeting by a private water hauler, who proposed buying the water from EPCOR, piping it northward to New River, and becoming a distributor to the rural region.

At the meeting, however, EPCOR did not specifically agree to look into the options and was not required by ACC to do so. EPCOR and ACC have both stated repeatedly that they did not cause the problem, are not responsible to solve it, and don’t expect to profit from the proposal.

Stenholm said the utility’s engineers have not yet had time to review the alternative proposals.

Today, New River/Desert Hills Water stated in its letter that it is concerned the private-hauler has the potential “to monopolize access to potable water in our community” with his proposal, and that the resident’s suggestion to move the water-hauling station westward along Desert Hills Drive “is not feasible.” The group put a petition on its web site encouraging residents to show EPCOR the community’s appreciation and support.

“We must urge EPCOR to reconsider stepping back and forging ahead to exercise the lease with the Anthem Community Council and build the water station at the proposed site on Desert Hills Drive,” the group’s letter states.

What’s at Stake

If the City of Phoenix shuts off the supply of hydrant water, which by its own codes is not allowed to be used as a source of potable water, and no other solution is found, rural residents could see prices double for water that would have to be trucked in from sources farther away, water haulers have said.

Those involved in the discussions say the situation will only worsen over time, as more wells in New River and Desert Hills go dry and ongoing development puts increasingly pressure on an ever-shrinking local aquifer.


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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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