To serve you better, we've assembled a list of our customers' most frequently asked questions. If you don't find your answer here, feel free to contact us.
During what hours is the Water Company Office open?
Monday through Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm, except for Federal holidays.
Should we have any safety concerns about our water?
Every year each customer is provided a Water Quality Report (see Water Quality Report within the Reports and Documents portion of this webpage) that provides water quality data and testing results on the water we supply to our customers. The water we provide to our customers is safe to drink or use for whatever purposes and meets all required drinking water standards.
How much water do we use on a daily basis?
During our peak summer month we use about 1,000,000 gallons per day. In 2010 the average usage per single family residential customer was 14,051 gallons per month.
Do we have enough water for the build out of Carefree?
Yes, we anticipate that with continued conservation efforts, about 1,500 acre feet of water will be required to supply water for the build out of Carefree. We anticipate using all of our 1,300 acre feet of CAP water allocation and will supplement that with pumped groundwater.
Does that include all the possible future development ?
Included in the 1,500 acre feet of anticipated water usage at build out are all the undeveloped, platted lots and undeveloped open space as designated by the current zoning in all the areas currently served by Carefree Water, as well as the planned, undeveloped lots in the developments bounded by Mule Train Road and Pima Road; Cave Creek Road and Stage Coach Pass as well as all the undeveloped open space in the downtown area including the planned Condo/Retail project in the Town Center and the condo areas on the north side of Cave Creek Road.
How much water storage do we have and does it address an emergency?
Our current water storage capacity is approximately 1,860,000. Currently our peak daily usage in the summer is about 1,000,000 gallons. Excluding the treated water received from the CAP sources, we have well pumping capacity of about 1900 gallons per minute (2,735,000 gallon/day) if needed to supplement or replenish our stored amount.
Are there any other factors that would affect emergencies?
We have back up electrical generators on each of our wells and most of our pressure pumping stations to provide a source of power to those facilities in case of loss of electricity through the grid system. The power generated by the standby generators is sufficient to run the pumps throughout the system and provide a continual supply of water. We also have in place fuel storage for the generators for a 24 hour period as well as strong commitments from our fuel suppliers to replenish our emergency fuel storage needs within a 24 hour period. We also have in place CAP treated water supply and delivery contracts with the City of Scottsdale and Cave Creek Water Company to provide us water on a regular or an emergency basis.
What has been done to address water usage during an emergency?
The Arizona Department of Water Resources has mandated that water companies throughout Arizona address the potential loss or reduction in water supply by evaluating each company’s water supply, water usage patterns, methods of water conservation and planning and response to an emergency or drought conditions. We have completed this planning and our plan has been accepted by ADWR. We will continue to update these plans as required or as the need dictates.
What is the Company doing to address conservation issues?
The Water Company is concerned with high overall water usage within the Company’s service area. As mentioned average residential usage is about 14,000 gallons per month which is quite high in comparison with other residential water users in Maricopa County. To address these concerns we have made efforts to first make sure that we are not wasting water through water leaks from fire hydrants or from our distribution or water storage systems. We provide one free data log for customers with an auto-read meter. We provide water use guides and other water conservation information and handouts thru our water conservation program. We provide water conservation tips in our monthly billings.
We encourage water use awareness and conservation thru our water rate structure. We are installing automatic meter reading devices, which will be able to provide to any interested customer a way to monitor daily water usage through an in home monitoring device. This system will provide us with the ability to more frequently monitor for residential water leaks. The automatic system will provide quicker and more accurate meter readings.
What is the status of our underground water supply?
One of the main reasons for purchasing the Water Company was to address the ever worsening condition of our underground water supply. As a result of past over pumping of the aquifer the underground water levels were dropping at a rate of about 15 to 20 feet per year and as a result the Carefree/Cave Creek aquifer was declared a “critical aquifer” by ADWR. Since the purchase, we have started to use more and more treated CAP water which has allowed us to reduce pumping. That has resulted in stabilizing the aquifer water level. With recent recharge efforts within the aquifer, the aquifer has begun to recover and water depth measurements are showing a recovery of 10 to 15 feet of water each of the past two years. Hopefully with these continued efforts our underground water supply will continue to improve. (See ground water level table under Reports and Documents section of this website)
What is the status of our CAP water supply?
Currently Carefree Water has an annual allocation of CAP water of 1,300 Acre Feet (423,606,000 gallons). This water is taken from the Colorado River and supplied through the Central Arizona Project Canal to the Scottsdale and Cave Creek Treatment facilities and then pumped to our distributions system. As a result of current drought conditions, that have prevailed in the west over the past decade, the Colorado River lakes have been decreasing in stored water supply. In June of 2010 it was estimated that during 2012 the water levels in the Colorado River Lakes would drop to a level to trigger a declaration of water shortage by the Secretary of the Interior reducing the amount of water that could be released from Lake Mead. That would require Arizona to begin its rationing program. This initial declaration would not impact CAP water deliveries to cities and other high priority customers until possibly 2020 due to the storage and recharge of CAP water since 1985.
Desert Forest Golf Club continues to use water for irrigation on the Golf Course; does the Water Company control their water use?
No, the Water Company supplies potable water to the Golf Course Clubhouse as a regular commercial customer and to the Golf Club’s course manager’s home as a normal residential customer. The Desert Forest Golf Club has a groundwater right granted to them by the Arizona Department of Water Resources that allows them to pump a specified amount of water from the aquifer each year to use on the golf course.
Does the Water Company pump water to the Golf Course for irrigation purposes?
Yes, we pump water to the Golf Course from our Well # 6. That well has high concentrations of Arsenic so that it cannot be used for potable water without expensive treatment. The high Arsenic water we pump to the golf course is exchanged for high quality, potable water that meets the drinking water standards. That higher quality water is pumped into our system from one of the Golf Club wells. This allows us to use the higher quality water for drinking water purposes and the lower quality water for golf course irrigation.
Couldn’t the high Arsenic water just be treated and used in the system?
Yes, it could but the initial cost of the treatment equipment and the ongoing annual cost of treating the Arsenic water to the drinking water standards was determined to be much more expensive than to just exchange the water. We do have, under emergency conditions, an approved plan that we could blend water from our high Arsenic well with our other sources of water so that it could be used as drinking water. The conditions for this blended usage plan are very restrictive and would require additional expenses in manpower and testing. We do not anticipate blending our high Arsenic water source with our other sources of water.
How do you determine the yearly mix of CAP water to groundwater we use?
As stated above one of the main reasons for purchasing the Water Company was to begin using more treated CAP water to replace the over pumping of the aquifer and because it was determined that the underground water supply was insufficient to provide the water needed for the build out of Carefree. The first year after the purchase of the Water Company we began using about 400 A.F of CAP Water, which was the amount of CAP allocation held by Carefree Water. As we were able to purchase an additional 900 A.F. of CAP allocation a goal was established to increase yearly usage by 50 A.F. Currently we anticipate that about 60% of the water utilized by the Water Company will be treated CAP water.
Why are our water rates more costly than other water rates in neighboring communities?
Our water rates are based upon many factors and many of those factors are not the same as encountered by the water companies in our surrounding communities. For example, we purchase much of our water supply on a treated and delivered basis from the City of Scottsdale and Cave Creek Water Company. The rate that we pay for that water includes not only the actual treatment and delivery costs but also those utilities allocated cost for operations and maintenance, capital improvements and reserve allocations. We also have to add our operations and maintenance, capital improvements and reserves to the purchased water costs thus increasing the total cost to more than what those companies charge their customers.
Another factor is that many Cities and Towns have Municipal Water operations and as such water related costs and capital improvements are totally or partially funded from the Municipalities General Fund. Carefree Water is not a Municipal Utility and is required to stand on its own. That means that we cannot use the Towns General Fund as a source of revenues from which to pay some or all of our costs. The revenues generated from the monthly billing of water or other utility derived revenues are used to pay for operations, maintenance, capital improvements and reserves.
It is obvious that larger Municipal Utilities having a greater number of customers over which to spread their costs, when compared to Carefree Water, can have lower rates.
Most water companies are started small and grow as their water service area grows. Our water company was purchased as an established utility with and an established infrastructure. Our rates take into account the attendant interest and principal of the purchase that many of our neighboring utility companies do not have or have not funded thru its rate structure.
Are the current economic conditions having an effect on the Water Company?
Overall water use by our customers has decreased about 7 % which has also reduced revenues by about 7%.
Is there anything that is being done to address the reduction in revenues?
Yes, the Water Company has reduced operational costs by reducing the amount of CAP water purchased replacing it with less expensive pumped groundwater while staying below our groundwater consumption target. We also have postponed those planned capital improvements and maintenance projects that are not considered critical to continued operations and we have instigated cost reduction efforts on general overall expenses.
Will increased water rates be required to address the revenue shortfall?
We recently had a 3% increase in water rates. We will continue to monitor and evaluate our financial situation as we go forward. Our policy is to have smaller annual increases in place of a large increase every 3 to 5 years.
What is the status of the automatic reading meters installation project?
We are proceeding with this program as of 2010 we have installed about 1200 AMR style meters on about 2/3 of all of our customers. The automatic meter readings for those meters installed to date have been very successful allowing us to more efficiently and accurately read, input the information into our billing system, and create the bills.
When do you anticipate having all the remaining services metered with the automatic reading meters?
Funding for the replacement of existing meters is based upon our annual capital budget expenditures. We anticipate that each year we will allocate $50,000 of the capital budget to install AMR style meters until all of our customers have an automatic read meter. With the decrease in new housing development we anticipate that Phase 2 of the program will be delayed. We will continue to replace meters as funding becomes available.