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10:02 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

More woes for Wilhoit Water Co.

WILHOIT - Two months after Wilhoit Water Co.-Thunderbird Meadows in Wilhoit filed a rate increase request with the Arizona Corporation Commission in hopes of fixing its failing system, the company mailed its customers a very restrictive water-use warning.

This past week, 128 customers in Wilhoit, south of Prescott, received notice of a Stage 4 water alert because the water level in Wilhoit Water's tanks fell to 25 percent of capacity.

The alert - authorized by the Corporation Commission - prohibits customers from intensive activities like watering outdoor plants or filling pools, spas or fountains.

ACC Commissioner Kris Mayes said Wednesday that Wilhoit Water had to go to a Stage 4 alert, the most severe level, because a valve at an interconnection point bringing fresh water from the nearby Walden Meadows Community Co-op failed and, therefore, cut off the supply.

Wilhoit Water Co. owner David Conlin said he thinks someone shut off the valve. Conlin said he learned of the problem from Prescott Pump, which monitors water flow for Wilhoit Water. An operator from Prescott Pump said Wilhoit Water did not have enough water to last through the Memorial Day weekend.

"We were horrified to hear that," he said.

With water flowing again, Conlin said the company now is under a Stage 2 alert, which asks customers to reduce water use by about 50 percent and water outside only two days per week.

John Frazzini, a customer who lives east of Highway 89 in Wilhoit, said the company should have issued a less-stringent Stage 2 or 3 alert before going to Stage 4. Conlin said ACC's order was to go to Stage 4.

This past week's notice stated the company would disconnect the service line of any customer who did not comply with the alert.

Frazzini said he had just spent several hundred dollars to plant a garden on his property.

"We pay our bills, and for that we are threatened with disconnection," he said. "And rather than investing some of the (company's) profit to ensure we have water, we get threats of losing all water usage."

Conlin said a valve caused this particular problem, but he has a larger long-term concern: His company has drilled at least 15 wells and has found little water underground to carry the company through the

summer months.

"Out of the combined wells that we have, we get a piddling 250,000 gallons a month," Conlin said. "Our usage in the summer goes up over 500,000 gallons."

Wilhoit Water, Mayes said, also has a problem with its old tanks and pipes that are in

disrepair.

Conlin said it will cost his company $132,000 to replace three tanks and the valves necessary to modify his system.

Wilhoit Water Co.'s parent company, Glenarm Land Co., is working with the ACC to establish a rate structure to pay for the improvements and it hopes to have an increase by the fall.

"If we get the rate increase so it will cover our costs of using the water and buying water, we will go ahead and lend the money to buy three brand new tanks and valves," he said.

A rate increase for customers would improve the company's infrastructure and ensure customers get the water they need, Mayes said. The Commission is pressing the company to fix its system and provide safe and reliable service.

"I know there are customers who are not happy about the idea of a rate increase, and we will take a look at the amount that the company is asking for and judge whether it is appropriate," Mayes said. "But we absolutely have to get some revenue into this system in order to make sure that the water quality is adequate, that the tanks are replaced, and the distribution lines aren't leaking."

Wilhoit Water Co. serves more than 300 customers in Yavapai County.

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com