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County asks Tucson to reconsider rural water rate hike

Posted at 10:34 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 07:54:46-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Pima County Board of Supervisors is asking the City of Tucson to reconsider hiking water rates for those living in unincorporated areas.

“We are working to resolve this issue in a way that protects water supplies while not disproportionally placing the costs on one class of water customer,” Board Chair and Dist. 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson said in a statement.

The supervisors asked the city to rescind the rate hike and accompanying actions, and suggested alternatives including allowing the county to participate in a cost-of-service study and committing to a rate structure based on cost of service regardless of city boundaries.

    As part of a 1979 intergovernmental agreement between the city and county, the county provides regional wastewater services and Tucson provides water.
    “Pima County, as the single management entity, is committed to the concept of equal service for all users of the metropolitan system without regard to jurisdictional location,” the 1979 agreement reads, according to Pima County.

    Due to this, many residents outside of the city feel like they don't have a say.

    "I think the thing that is most frustrating is that they have no voice, no control, and no vote to stop this imposition of increased water rates," District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy said. "They live outside of the city. They can't vote these city council people out for doing this."

    Supervisor Christy says he is encouraging the board to put pressure on the city with sewage rates in hopes of that the city council will rescind the water hike. Ultimately he says this could end in the courts.

    "It's going to end up in the courts," Supervisor Christy said. "I don't believe it's going to be a good or positive thing if that happens for the City of Tucson."

    County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s addressed the issue in an Aug. 10 memo on the issue, writing "Clearly, the message in the mid-1970s was regional management of water resources for both water and sewer. By adopting differential water rates, the City has taken a major step backward in regional resource management."