By TARA ALATORRE
PHOENIX – The Arizona Corporation Commission (AZCC) approved the EPCOR interim water rate case at its meeting last Thursday in a 3-2 decision, increasing water rates for east-side Anthem residents effective April 1, 2019.
The rate hike does not include wastewater and is based on water usage. Typical east-side Anthem customers will see an increase of about 36 percent per billing cycle based on the average use of 7,000 gallons per month using a 5/8-inch or 3/4-inch meter.
Under the new interim rates an average east-side Anthem home will pay about $2.65 more per 1,000 gallons of water used, with the final numbers expected to be released by the AZCC sometime this week. The interim rates will be in effect until the AZCC decides on EPCOR’s permanent rates case that must be filed by May 1, 2020.
“While any increase is unacceptable in our opinion, the final result is better than the 59 percent increase that Anthem ratepayers were facing just a few months ago,” said Kristi Northcutt, Director of Public Affairs for the Anthem Community Council. She served as an intervener in the case along with Board President Roger Willis.
EPCOR, which is the largest water company in Arizona, will use 2019 as a test year to establish new rates when it files its new permanent rate case in 2020. If the rates decided in the 2020 case are less than interim rates, customers will be refunded the difference for that time period plus interest, according to a press release from the Anthem Community Council (ACC).
The EPCOR rate case has been ongoing since the private utility company filed an application for interim rates on January 31, 2019, because the AZCC could not come to a majority decision regarding the company’s request to consolidate rates for its 11 districts across the state.
“Regional consolidation holds some promise for our district. So, while our ratepayers must unfortunately endure an increase in this interim period, there does seem to be hope for a better outcome next year,” Northcutt said.
According to EPCOR, it needs to invest more than $430 million in the next decade for infrastructure improvement on all its Arizona water systems. The utility company says it recommended the consolidation because stand-alone rates would cause a net increase in each district.
EPCOR will host a community meeting at the Civic Building in the near future to explain these changes, the impact to Anthem ratepayers, and next steps. The information for the meeting will be posted at OnlineatAnthem.com. All documents related to this matter, including today’s decision once signed, may be found on the Corporation Commission’s online docket at https://edocket.azcc.gov by searching for docket number WS-01303A-19-0011.