The residents of Mesa del Caballo must feel like they’re drowning in a sea of expensive troubles. Fortunately, they now have a floating scrap of hope to hang onto — the Blue Ridge pipeline.
Residents also got a chance to vent years of frustration and outrage during two public forums on the 400-home subdivision’s water future staged by Brooke Utilities President Robert Hardcastle.
Mostly, the man who runs water companies that serve many isolated, Rim Country communities had to listen to howls of anger and confusion, as residents clutched water bills that doubled and tripled this summer due to a surcharge for water hauled in by trucks to augment the community’s seven, faltering wells.
Hardcastle set before the simmering homeowners several alternatives to secure their future and avoid the expense of hauling water in trucks every summer. The brightest prospect remains buying into Payson’s $30 million pipeline. The community could probably secure rights to 75 acre-feet of additional water. Currently, its seven wells can only produce about 54 acre-feet of water annually, said Hardcastle.
Much of the discussion focused on the short-term anger about the water hauling charges rather than the long-term solution. That’s understandable, given the shock of the bills many homeowners had just received.
Hardcastle insisted the Arizona Corporation Commission that granted him the water monopoly and allowed him to impose the hauling charges also won’t let him make a profit on those hauling charges.
Clearly, many residents didn’t believe Hardcastle. But set that issue aside for now. Leave it to the Corporation Commission to audit Hardcastle’s expenses.
But the chance to stick a spigot into Payson’s pipeline represents the much more pressing and important issue.
Hardcastle put the cost of connecting to the Blue Ridge pipeline at $1 million. Now, that sounds like a lot of money, but all sorts of grants and financing mechanisms can reduce it to a manageable monthly impact — especially when compared to paying an extra $70 or $100 a month every summer to haul water.
Presumably the $1 million covers the community’s buy-in. Payson’s pipeline and treatment plant will cost about $33 million, with millions more invested in the stretch of pipe that runs from the Blue Ridge Reservoir to Washington Park.
Even if Mesa del can’t get any grants or low-cost federal loans to cover that buy-in, it works out to about $2,500 per home. Spread over 10 years, that’s about $21 per month to secure a sustainable supply of water that will undoubtedly increase the value of every home in the community.
So we’re glad that Mesa del Caballo and Brooke Utilities have taken the first firm steps toward securing its water future. Now we hope that residents will keep their eyes on the horizon and keep paddling, without getting distracted by the painful, short-term splinters they pick up from the water hauling fees.