Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mesa del residents sign on to hauling surcharge

Trucks will replace pipeline as USFS balks

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor

Mesa del Caballo will receive an emergency water supply from the Town of Payson when water levels drop below 70 percent of capacity, but it will not be delivered via a temporary pipeline.

Brooke Utilities, which provides water to the community, and residents of Mesa del both had hoped that an above ground pipeline could have been constructed before peak demand season arrives this summer. However, environmental impact studies that need to be completed to satisfy the U.S. Forest Service will not be done in time to build a pipeline this year.

Instead, water will again be hauled in by tankers filled from a hydrant owned by the Town of Payson Water Department at the intersection of Houston Mesa Road and Highway 87. That delivery run will be significantly shorter than last year, when tankers had to make the trip from as far away as Gisela.

The tankers will begin hauling water when the community enters stage three water restrictions.

The big change for residents in Mesa del is that unlike in years past, they will be billed a surcharge this year when water hauling is necessary.

Brooke Utilities spokesperson Myndi Brogdon was quick to point out that Brooke would not be making any money from the new hauling surcharge.

“The customer will pay for the cost of the truck and the cost of the water only,” she explained, adding that the community had not had a rate increase in 12 years.

Brooke expects to need as many as 15 trucks to haul in water during peak season from May 1 to October 1. They anticipate paying $6 per 1000 gallons of water, and to rent the trucks at roughly $150 an hour.

The added fee customers will pay will be calculated by dividing the total costs incurred by Brooke in a calendar month by the total amount of water sold during the same period. The resulting rate per 1,000 gallons will then be multiplied by the gallons a customer used in the same month to determine the surcharge amount per 1,000 gallons.

The surcharge will be an extra line item on the customer’s water bill.

The Mesa del Water Committee, along with Brogdon, held several meetings last week to inform residents of the coming changes. They gave a presentation about the options the community will have going forward to alleviate the shortages residents have endured the past few years.

At the meetings, residents were asked to sign a petition indicating their approval of the new hauling charges. Over 90 percent signed. The petition will be presented to the Arizona Corporation Commission which must give the final OK to the plan.

Instead of the usual adversarial scenario, the water committee and Brooke have been working together to try and solve the community's chronic summer water shortages -- an arrangement that could serve as a model for communities in similar situations.

In time, a permanent increase in water supply could come from the CC Cragin (Blue Ridge) Pipeline, which will run right by Mesa del along Houston Mesa Road. However, Cragin water will not be available until 2016 at the earliest.

Brooke is also studying the possibility of drilling a new well for Mesa del, but initial studies have shown that the prognosis of finding a significant source of water underneath the mesa is not good.

One bit of positive news for Mesa del residents will be an easing of the restrictions on outdoor watering depending on what stage the community is in. Unlike years past, outside watering will be permitted as late as stage four, though customers will still be expected to reduce their water consumption by at least 40 percent as measured on a daily basis.

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