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Phoenix Water Equity Efforts Could Mean No Shutoffs, Lower Late Fees

Published: Monday, September 7, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Thursday, February 25, 2021 - 1:25pm
Christina Estes/KJZZ
The Phoenix City Council is scheduled to vote on changes to overdue water bills in October 2020.

Phoenix’s water director wants to make emergency action taken during the pandemic permanent.

Current city code requires the water director turn off service when someone cannot or refuses to pay their bill. During the pandemic, Kathryn Sorensen used her emergency powers as director to halt disconnections and instead switch overdue accounts to low flow. She wants to make that permanent, along with a billing change. 

“Today, late fees continue to accrue on the entire city services bill even after we have disconnected customers for non-payment,” she said.

Sorensen wants late fees to stop growing once the water is shut off. The recommendations come from a citizens advisory committee. The City Council is expected to vote on the recommendations in October. 

The water services department manages more than 400,000 accounts that service 1.5 million customers. 

In January 2019, the council approved a 12% water rate hike over two years. On Feb. 1, 2020, water rates increased 6%. The department said the increase is about $2.37 a month in 2020 for the average residential water customer.

In 2019, when the council approved the increase, the water department said it needed to spend $1.515 billion over the next five years to cover infrastructure improvements, which will also include about $525 million for rehabilitation and replacement of aging water pipelines.

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