Pima County prepares to file suit against Tucson over water rates

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County is preparing to file suit against the City of Tucson over its differential water rates.

On Tuesday the city voted to charge customers in unincorporated Pima County up to 40% more than city residents for the same amount of water.

“It’s disappointing, the last thing we want to do is go to court,” said Pima County Board Chair Sharon Bronson. “But I think that’s the only, unfortunately, the only option left now.”

Bronson said she wrote a letter to Tucson Mayor Regina Romero asking for a meeting to discuss the issue but never heard from the Mayor.

Differential water rates are not uncommon in Arizona. Most cities have them, including Phoenix. But one criteria is the water utility must prove it costs more to provide service outside the city limits.

Tucson conducted a cost of service analysis which it says proves it costs more to deliver water to the unincorporated areas and puts the plan on firm footing.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the cost of service study is flawed especially since Tucson has exempted other incorporated communities like Marana, Oro Valley, South Tucson and Sahuarita.

The Pima County Attorney’s office is preparing a potential legal challenge which the board will discuss at its Nov. 16 meeting.

The Board of Supervisors will have the final say as to whether a suit is filed or whether some other accommodation might be found.

But Huckelberry, when asked if there might be another alternative said " at this point, it would appear not.”

The differential water rates are scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 or some time after.

Bronson says the conflict is too bad because both entities have the same shared goal and that’s water conservation.

“If you want to achieve conservation, there are certainly better strategies,” she said. “This one will have the opposite effect.”

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