An Update Regarding The Water Utility
Measuring Improvements to Customer Service
Since taking the helm as Interim Manager of Johnson Utilities, we’ve focused on improving not just water and wastewater services, but also the experience customers have in interacting with the utility.
We are pleased to report that monthly surveys taken during the last year show these efforts are paying off. In December 2018, overall customer service satisfaction was ranked at 54%. A year later, we’ve measured customer service satisfaction at 70%. We’re pleased with these results, but we know there is more work to be done.
Looking Ahead: Planning Study and Capital Improvement Plan
We are rolling up our sleeves for another year of improved services for Johnson Utilities customers.
In early 2019 we initiated a comprehensive planning study to support projected growth over the next 10 years. That study is now complete – we’re developing a long-term roadmap to meet compliance requirements and we’re tackling capital improvements according to priority.
Along with this study, we’re focused on the capital improvement plan approved last year by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), which lays out infrastructure needs for the next three years. You may have heard that EPCOR has raised concerns that there will not be enough money to fund these projects. The ACC has also ordered Johnson Utilities’ owners to pay for these improvements and they are working to secure funding.
In the meantime, we’ve received ACC approval to adjust hook-up fees for new developments, putting them more in line with the metro Phoenix area and increased available funding for priority projects.
Water Supply, Quality and Pressure
Winter Water Conservation: Spring is just around the corner, and we’d like to remind customers to think conservation as you prepare your yard or garden. The Arizona Department of Water Resources estimates that 70% of residential water use in Arizona occurs outdoors. Check your sprinkler systems for leaks, especially after any cold snaps are over – and remember that xeriscape landscaping is always less water-intensive than grass and non-native trees.
We’ll be installing a third Ion Exchange (IX) unit – a very effective way to remove nitrate from water – at the Main Yard. The new unit will allow us to discontinue using the less-efficient RO system and once again ensure ample water for this year’s summer season.
We’re also making progress on new well construction that will add significant new supplies of water to the system. Promenade Well #2 is scheduled for startup on temporary power by March, and will be capable of producing 2.6 million gallons per day (MGD) of high-quality water that does not require treatment. The new Bella Vista Farms Well is also in the design phase and will add nearly 3 MGD.
New Hookups Available to Developers
As a result of our work to increase water supplies and correct system-wide low pressure issues in the last 16 months, the ACC voted unanimously last December to lift the meter management program that had been in place since November 2018. This action restores availability of new water and wastewater hookups that were temporarily on hold to protect services for existing customers. The ACC’s decision went into effect December 11, 2019.
Wastewater System Improvements
Effluent Management. Recent rainy weather in south-central Arizona has brought extra wastewater into the Johnson Utilities system. As a result of our capital improvements at the Pecan Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) during 2019, we’ve been able to handle this extra water without making emergency releases of treated effluent into the Queen Creek wash as was necessary during the first quarter of last year.
Compliance Improvements. There have been no odor exceedances at the Section 11 plant in nearly three months, and no reportable sanitary sewer overflows for the month of December.
Pecan WRF Expansion. We’ve reported previously that expanding the Pecan WRF is the top priority on the list of capital improvement needs for 2020 – and the design phase of that project is now underway. The expansion will improve the overall treatment process and take the facility from a capacity of 3 MGD to 4 MGD. We estimate the overall project will take about 18 months to complete.
Rate Case Update
In Arizona, regulated utilities like Johnson Utilities do not set their own rates, but provide information to help the ACC determine costs to provide quality services and maintain and upgrade the systems.
The ACC has instructed EPCOR to file a new rate case, based on an August 2019 test year, for Johnson Utilities. EPCOR’s rates, regulatory and financial professionals are working with third-party experts to develop the application for the February 14, 2020 filing deadline. We expect the ACC’s review and analysis to take at least a year, with a decision no sooner than spring 2021 at the earliest.
Be on the lookout for community meeting details to learn more.
We Invite Your Comments
As always, we value input from customers, and we appreciate your continued support as we work every day to improve your services and ensure a sound future for Johnson Utilities.
How to Contact Us
24/7 Bill Payment: 1-844-567-2502
Customer service & billing inquiries: 480-987-9870
Emergencies: 480-987-9870 (press 6) or 480-887-0648