The plot of land where the new EPCOR standpipe and water hauling station will be located, on Desert Hills Drive near 17th Avenue.
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Phoenix Water: Extends water haulers’ deadline as new Desert Hills, EPCOR station moves forward


Tara Alatorre

The City of Phoenix has officially extended the water permits issued to the water haulers in the New River and Desert Hills areas through April 30, 2018, giving the communities an extra four months to build a new standpipe and water hauling station to alleviate the areas ongoing water shortage issues.
According to a letter from Phoenix Council Member Thelda Williams’ office, the city was willing to extend the permits because a long-term solution was put into motion recently that allowed EPCOR to build a permanent water station along the northside of Desert Hills Drive, according the letter.
The permits were set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017, leaving residents in the communities without an affordable water source. The water hauler companies must apply for the new permits promptly, and submit new permit applications, complying with all associated deadlines and fees, the letter stated.
“While Phoenix empathizes with those who reside outside the boundaries of a water utility, it also understands that living outside a city-service area is a choice available to property owners, and we respect their right to make that decision.” Council member Williams stated in the letter.
The water woes in the New River and Desert Hills communities started over the summer when the City of Phoenix discovered water haulers had been using dust permits to deliver water obtained from Phoenix fire hydrants to residents in the area.  Phoenix stated that the residential use of water was against code, and infringes on the designated water in the city’s 100-year plan.
“Ratepayers in Phoenix’s water service territory pay for the infrastructure and long-term resources that ensure safe, clean, reliable deliveries at the tap. The City has an important duty- and the Phoenix City Council has a fiduciary responsibility- to protect this precious commodity for residents, who ultimately own the water utility,” Williams stated in the letter.
Plans were put into place after the Anthem Board of Directors voted at the Dec. 5 meeting to lease land near Desert Hills Drive and 17th Avenue to EPCOR, a privately-owned utilities company. The water will be drawn from a 300 acre-foot water supply that it uses to recharge the groundwater.  EPCOR will use the land Anthem is leasing to build the standpipe that water haulers would be allowed to use for residential delivery, according to records obtained by The Foothills Focus.
The lease agreement between EPCOR and Anthem states that water haulers can’t access Anthem streets for their everyday use to service residential water customers in New River and Desert Hills, said Jenna Kohl, the Anthem Community Council CEO, in an email statement. 
“We always strive to be good neighbors, and we (literally) had a piece of the solution that we could offer.  The ACC will see only nominal profit from the lease of the land; financial gain did not factor into the decision for the ACC,” Kohl said in an email, while explaining why Anthem decided to lease the land.
EPCOR estimates that it will provide residents in the area with 50,000 gallons of water per day, which would be a minimum of ten trucks a day coming and going from the new station, or could be as many as 30 to 60 trucks a day, according to an email EPCOR sent to The Foothills Focus on Dec. 12.
According to the agreement, EPCOR will charge a special water-hauling rate of $9.55 per thousand gallons for area residents, and is priced to ensure the customers will not be adversely financially impacted, according to a letter submitted by EPCOR to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
“Residents in the New River and Desert Hills area are in an emergency situation.  The wells that they have used to provide themselves water are drying up,” EPCOR stated in the letter.
EPCOR estimates that the standpipe and water station will be completed by April, within the timeframe for the new deadline Phoenix has given the water haulers.
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, of District 3 who represents the affected areas believes this is a good long-term solution, but does not believe it is a permanent solution.
“I don’t believe this is the permanent solution, but I do think it one that can serve the community for many years,” Gates said in an interview. “I believe a permanent solution is something that will come from the community.”