December 15 and 16, 2021 will be very important days for customers of EPCOR who reside in the Anthem Water District (east of I-17). During the open meeting on those days, the Arizona Corporation Commission (AzCC) likely will decide whether to combine the Anthem Water District with other water districts (consolidation; the recommendation of the Administrative Law Judge as issued Nov. 12, 2021) or leave it as-is (standalone).What does this mean to Anthem customers?
- According to the recommendations submitted Nov. 12 by the Administrative Law Judge who presided over the current rate case, a “typical” Anthem District residential customer who has a ¾” meter serving his/her house and uses the district-wide median of 6,000 gallons per month currently pays $72.57 (including all taxes and surcharges).
- By comparison, residents of Phoenix (including Anthem west of I-17) and Sun City (who are also EPCOR customers) pay less than $20 for the same meter/usage combination.
- If the Commission decides to leave Anthem as a standalone district (as-is), our bill could jump to $106.69, an increase of an eye-popping $34.12 (47%).
- Alternatively, if the Commission decides to consolidate Anthem with five of eight other districts owned and operated by EPCOR (referred to as partial or regional consolidation) our bill would be $69.26, or $3.31 (4.5%) less than current.
- Results would be even more favorable for Anthem District customers if the AzCC fully consolidates all nine EPCOR water districts.
Residents often ask “Why are our bills so much higher?” It wasn’t always that way. Early residents of Anthem benefitted from artificially low rates until 2008, when rates increased by an average of 38%, followed in 2011 by an 80% increase, for a compound increase of nearly 150% compared to 2007 rates. The causes? The high cost of building, operating, and maintaining Anthem’s high-tech water (and sewer) infrastructure. In addition, our systems are newer and thus costs were higher than when the Sun City systems were built 50 or 60 years ago. Finally, the Anthem district has only 9,200 customers whereas Sun City has 25,000 customers to share their respective costs.
But will consolidation still be favorable for Anthem customers in 10 years? No one can predict what will happen with inflation, regulations, growth, weather, and other factors between now and 2031. But based solely on EPCOR’s projections of investments in all their districts, it appears that consolidation still makes economic sense for Anthem residents well into the future.
What can residents do?
File a public comment about the case:
- Visit the Arizona Corporation Commission website.
- In the menu in the middle of the page, select “Cases and Open Meetings.”
- Select “Make a Public Comment in a Docket.”
- After your personal information in the fields at the top; in the fields below, enter “EPCOR Water Arizona Inc.” for Company Name. The eDocket number is WS-01303A-20-0177.
- While you are free to choose your position, the Anthem Community Council recommends that you select “For” as your position (“For” indicates that you are F"or Consolidation," which would reduce Anthem rates as indicated above).
- Click “Submit.” You should receive an email confirmation of your submission.
After the open meeting of the Commission in December, more information will be posted for the public. Here is an historical article about the case.