Rising water bills taking a toll on Valley customers

SUN CITY, AZ - How much is too much for water?

We've been following the rising costs of sewer rates that are driving up water bills for Epcor customers in the Agua Fria waste water district in the West Valley.

Much of the district covers the Loop 303 to the north, El Mirage Road to the east, and Grand Avenue to the west. Other portions include Verrado and parts of Sun City, Buckeye and Surprise.

The hikes came after the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to remove nearly 9,000 customers from the district which, at the time, was merged with Anthem.

After our first story aired in June , we were contacted by customer Rick Covington, who says he had reached his breaking point.

He's a hard working guy.

And from the neatly maintained desertscape in his front yard, to the pristine fish tank in his living room, you can tell he takes pride in his home.

Up until this past spring, the backyard had lush green grass, some young trees, even a garden.

"I was really, really getting into it," he says with a smile.

But with a really tight budget, he says he had to give it up to try and reign the water bill.

"I started letting my grass die because I was like, I'm going to have to cut back on something," said Covington.

Problem is, it wasn't working. He says the water bill was getting higher and higher and he was getting further and further behind.

"It was a $159 dollars for March, and then April came along and that was $198," he said.

He says he put in a call to the water company to see what could be done.

"We weren't getting anywhere and it was like a brick wall," said Covington.

So he says he had to make a tough choice.

"It's either buy food or pay the water bill," Covington explained.

Covington's water has been turned off since April.

"It just takes a little more work and resourcefulness," he said.

He says he's captured rain water from recent monsoon storms, and uses it to hydrate the shrubs in his yard.

A couple of times a week he goes to a relative's house to fill trash cans, plastic jugs and containers with water for everything from bathing to washing dishes.

"I'm saving money from (not) paying the bill, but it's not like I'm putting it in the bank" said Covington. "It's just going toward other things."

Covington hopes he can resume water service sometime soon. But he and his wife are managing for now.

"The floors are clean, the animals have water, we have water, we're doing ok," said Covington.

But help may be on the way. .

After receiving thousands of consumer complaints, the Arizona Corporation Commission has agreed to hold a public hearing about the effects of the rise in Agua Fria's water and sewer rates.

The meeting will be held at the commission's downtown offices and is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 22.

Check the agenda item here .

Do you plan on going? What would you say to the ACC? Go to my Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there.

Need my help? Call the Assistance League of Phoenix volunteers Wednesdays and Fridays from 11-1 at 1-855-323-1515 or leave a message anytime.

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