In a stunning contradiction to repeated assurances, Mesa del Caballo residents may soon pay water hauling charges in addition to a monthly surcharge that was supposed to eliminate such charges by connecting the unincorporated community to Payson’s water system.
Payson Water Company owner Jason Williamson said even though he has completed the $300,000 connection to Payson’s water system, he doesn’t yet have clearance from the Arizona Corporation Commission or the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to actually open up the spigot.
As a result, Mesa del residents may for now have to pay both the $7-a-month surcharge for connecting to the Payson system and water hauling charges that could double or triple their normal bills.
A bone-dry year has sent well levels plunging, even before the onset of the hot weather and the heavy summer use.
Williamson, sent out a notice to Mesa del residents early this week that said, “Note that the new pipeline from the Town of Payson to Mesa del Caballo is substantially complete and operational. However, because the Arizona Corporation Commission has not yet approved the new rates (which include the Purchased Water Surcharge for MDC customers), the company cannot afford to purchase water through the new line.
“At present, and until new rates take effect, the only ACC-approved method for the company to augment water into Mesa del Caballo and recover the cost, remains hauling water into the system with trucks.”
Months ago when approving the surcharge to connect to the Payson system, the ACC assured upset Mesa del residents that they wouldn’t have to pay water hauling fees this summer.
Williamson said in an email to the Roundup that on top of rate issues with the ACC, his company is waiting for the Arizona Department of Water Quality (ADEQ) to give its final Approval of Construction.
The manager of the Town of Payson Water District, Tanner Henry, said the town is ready to start pumping water through the pipeline. It just needs Williamson’s go-ahead. Henry said he had heard the ADEQ approval was holding up the flow of water.
The Mesa del water table has plummeted and wells have lost capacity due to the historic dry weather over the winter.
Mary Hansen, who owns the well that once provided a large share of the community’s water although it didn’t show up on Brooke Utilities’ list of wells, said her well’s production has dropped from 14 gallons a minute to 10.
During a hearing with the Arizona Corporation Commissioners on April 11, Hansen worried she would have to pull her well off-line because the water table has dipped so low.
Over pumping a well in a dry period can cause a permanent reduction in its capacity. She blamed high water use by people who own their own personal wells.
Williamson said in an email that he has heard the ACC might provide him with an answer to the conundrum by next week.
“I will note, however, that since my notice was sent out, the ACC staff has informed me that they are trying to come up with a stop-gap solution to allow Payson Water Company to recover the cost of the purchased water from the new line so that we will not need to use trucks.
“This will be necessary only if the ACC continues to delay the implementation of the proposed new rates,” he said.
ACC spokesperson Rebecca Wilder said "The Commission is aware of the situation and is working to find a solution as quickly as possible."
During the February hearing, Payson Water Company lawyer Jay Shapiro said the company agreed to not haul water to Mesa del since the ACC agreed to the building of the pipeline to Mesa del in October of 2013.
The company and the ACC staff agreed during the hearing that if water hauling were ever necessary again, Williamson would have to come before the Commission to seek permission.
Williamson said he will know more next week.