A Year End Review From The Interim Manager
As we near the end of 2019, the EPCOR and Johnson Utilities team continue to work to provide safe and efficient water and wastewater services. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season.
Cold snaps are unusual in our state, but it’s always a good idea to know how to protect your home when they do happen. In very cold weather – below about 20 degrees – it’s a good idea to protect your pipes from freezing. Pipes closest to the cold are most susceptible, so disconnect garden hoses and leave a trickle of water running from faucets connected to pipes in exterior walls of your house. If your pipes do freeze, using a hair dryer is a safe way to warm them up.
Please also help us keep your drains clean by avoiding putting fats, oils, and grease (FOG) down your sink or garbage disposal – and remember not to flush anything besides bath tissue down the toilet.
New Hookups Available Again to Developers
We’re pleased to announce that the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted unanimously on December 10 to lift the meter management program that’s been in place since November 2018. Because EPCOR’s initial analysis of the Johnson Utilities system found the existing infrastructure inadequate to meet current and future demands, the management plan temporarily limited new water and wastewater hookups available to developers to protect services for existing customers.
Lifting the restrictions this December was the direct result of the work EPCOR has led and carried out during the past year to optimize existing resources, add new water supplies to the system, correct water pressure issues, and more. The ACC’s decision went into effect December 11.
An Update on the Pending Rate Case
A reminder to customers that the ACC has instructed EPCOR to file a new rate case for Johnson Utilities, based on an August 2019 test year (Docket #WS-02987-17-0392). The ACC has extended the filing deadline to February 14, 2020 due to delays in receiving the necessary financial information from Johnson Utilities.
After a rate case is filed, it takes about a year or more for the ACC to review and analyze it. We don’t expect a decision until spring 2021, at the earliest. Once the rate case is filed in early 2020, we’ll schedule a community meeting to walk you through the application and answer questions you might have.
Increasing Water Supply We are already looking ahead to 2020 and beyond as we continue work to add water supplies to the Johnson Utilities system. Magma 1 well is online and producing water to help meet demands and increase pressures in the Magma subdivisions. We’re using this well on an as-needed basis with a generator until the permanent electrical work is completed near the end of December.
Crestfield well is one of three existing but non-operational wells we’ve tested in recent months and we’re evaluating the preliminary water quality samples that we’ve taken. We’re also making good progress on design and construction for three new wells – one at Bella Vista Farms and two in the Promenade area.
Lastly, we’ve implemented a fire hydrant maintenance program to support regular preventive maintenance, fix inoperable hydrants and improve overall flows in the water distribution system.
Continuing Work to Improve Water Pressure Water pressure remains an important component of our efforts to enhance water supplies. We’re upgrading the electrical equipment at the Ricke water plant that feeds the Magma subdivisions to help sustain pressures when power outages occur. We’re also evaluating a project to replace water lines that are too small to increase supplies to areas that have historically experienced lower flows or pressures.
Water Treatment Efforts
IX System. EPCOR has significantly improved water treatment capacities at Johnson Utilities through two ion exchange (IX) water treatment units installed at the Main Yard this year. Around the end of January 2020, we’ll receive equipment needed to set up a third IX unit to increase the amount of water treated and distributed from this location.
At the same time, we’re equipping Johnson Ranch Well #3 with a nitrate isolation system to improve nitrate concentrations coming to the Main Yard and reduce how much it costs to run the IX system.
Chlorination. National best industry practices call for a small but detectable level of chlorine in all treated tap water that comes from groundwater sources. We’re implementing an automated chlorination system at the Main Yard – expected to be finished by spring 2020 – that will ensure treated water leaving this water treatment site is safe and meets EPA requirements.
Wastewater System Improvements and Plans
We’ve completed a series of projects in the last year – described in previous updates – to address odor issues at the Section 11 Water Reclamation Facility. As a result, equipment measuring odor levels has documented a significant reduction in odors at the facility. We’ve also made improvements to the collection system near the Pecan Wastewater Treatment Plant that have significantly decreased odors.
Looking ahead, we’re focused on developing capital plans for improvements to the Pecan, San Tan and Anthem wastewater treatment plants. A top priority is expanding Pecan – early estimates have this project largely finished by fall 2020.