Tempe’s water: Your pocketbook, your health, your safety

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Water. I take it for granted, don’t you? I turn on the tap and expect water to flow forth.
I use it to water my lawn and plants. I use it to wash laundry and my car. I use it to cook pasta and to bathe. My family drinks it; and we all expect it to be healthy to consume. If there’s a fire in the neighborhood, I expect the fire department will access the hydrant in my cul-de-sac to put out the fire.

As a Tempe resident, I expect to pay a fair price for the water my family and I use. I expect the water to be safe to drink. I expect that firefighters will have ready access to plentiful supplies of water to quench any fire. My pocketbook; my family’s health; our safety. All are core water issues as recently revealed.

In south Tempe, there are many large lots and horse properties. Some homeowners are suddenly seeing water rates that are triple their bills for the same amount of water used a year ago.

At the request of selected concerned residents, we asked to meet with the Mayor, a few council members and Public Works staff members on November 28. Residents gathered to express their dismay with these higher rates and to discuss the new “tiered” system that charges the highest rates per gallon to the highest users.

Residents who use lower quantities of water have a much lower rate per gallon. It is unreasonable to expect one homeowner to subsidize water costs for others. I don’t like it in my taxes and I don’t like it in my City of Tempe water bill.

Is this new tiered system due to a water shortage in Tempe? No, but the Council, as part
of its “sustainability” policy, aspires to motivate homeowners to consume less water.

When you purchased your Tempe property, did you anticipate that the City would penalize you for attempting to maintain this lifestyle even when there is no water shortage?

This is a Council policy. We should expect better. Meanwhile last June, the City notified residents that its drinking water was in violation of a Stage 2 disinfection by-products rule. What does this mean?

The notice explained that the treated water had elevated levels of Trihalomethanes (TTHM),
exceeding the Maximum Containment Level (MCL) set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 80 parts per billion (ppb). The notice states “TTHMs are four volatile organic chemicals which form when disinfectants react with natural organic matter in the water. People who drink water containing TTHMs in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have
an increased risk of getting cancer.”

I have yet to see any follow up information that provides reassurance that Tempe’s water quality is back to safe and normal conditions. We should expect better. Then sadly, word spread recently that a couple of families in south Tempe experienced house fires. While response time of a firefighting unit was rapid, at one of these incidents firefighters needed to access three hydrants before succeeding in connecting with the water supply.

Most fire trucks have about an hour’s worth of water on board, and Tempe’s capable firefighters did finally access a hydrant. But why were hydrants inoperable? Was the water line broken? Is there a maintenance schedule for the hydrants themselves? This is a safety issue for residents and firefighters too!

We should expect better.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, at 6 p.m., a South Tempe Candidate Forum will take place at Arizona Community Church, 9325 S. Rural Road. Residents are encouraged to attend to ask candidates questions about these and other issues and to let Tempe City Council candidates know that south Tempe expects better.

Longtime resident Mary Lou Taylor served 10 years on the Tempe Union High School Board.

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1 COMMENT

  1. It’s well known that while there is no current water shortage, water levels are constantly lowering at our resovoirs and we must do a better job of conserving water, so yes the tier system is the right system and those reckless with water use should pay more.

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