Brooke Utilities bought a little more time before officials have to face an irritated Arizona Corporation Commission to reply to complaints of water shortages by residents of Mesa del Caballo.
The Corporation Commission had asked Brooke president Robert Hardcastle to appear on Sept. 22 to explain why the company hasn’t apparently done anything in recent years to increase the supply of water to the 400-home subdivision off Houston Mesa Road.
However, Hardcastle had a scheduling conflict, and the commission asked for a more detailed report and deferred the promised trip to the woodshed until a future open meeting, said Commission spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder.
The next open commission meeting is Oct. 20, but the commissioners might also schedule a special meeting sooner, said Wilder.
Mesa del Caballo repeatedly ran out of water this summer, forcing Brooke to haul water from the distant community of Gisela.
Brooke officials blamed the shortages on a surge in demand that coincided with a decline in well output in the midst of a bone-dry monsoon season.
However, Commission Chairman Kristin Mayes said the company’s figures show that well production has been declining steadily for five years, with no indication the company has made an effort to drill wells or otherwise increase the water supply.
Residents of Mesa del have formed formed a committee to explore setting up their own water district and to negotiate with the water company to improve communications.
Some residents this summer complained that during the period of mandatory rationing, the water company cut off their water without adequate notice, sometimes based on faulty meter readings. A customer cut off during a period of mandatory water rationing must pay $600 to have their water hookup restored.
“The date has not been set for (Hardcastle’s) appearance,” said Wilder. “It is my understanding that having Mr. Hardcastle come to the commission is for the commissioners and the company to discuss in open forum what problems the company is facing and what steps it can take to rectify the situation. I do not believe there will be a vote as there is not a formal proceeding on this issue. This meeting could lead to a formal proceeding, but I can’t speculate as to what will happen.”
Previously, Chairman Mayes has termed the failure to provide enough water “unacceptable” and said the commission might want to take the first formal steps toward revoking the company’s exclusive right to sell water in the community.
The company recently filed a brief response to resident complaints in response to a request from the commission. In that response, Hardcastle indicated that the only long-term solution to the community’s water woes lay in getting water from Payson’s Blue Ridge Reservoir pipeline, which will go past the community’s front door.
Hardcastle suggested that the residents might not be able to afford any other short term solution, like drilling additional wells.