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Phoenix councilwoman wants to address 'greedflation' after raising water rates

Water users in Phoenix will see higher bills starting in October after the City Council approved a plan to raise rates and encourage conservation.

No council member was happy voting to raise water rates 26% and wastewater 20%. Rates have already gone up six times in seven years to invest in infrastructure and address maintenance. 

Kesha Hodge Washington, who joined the council in April, said, “We are now dealing with the consequences of prior leadership not taking the necessary steps and while we can sit and cast stones I think the more prudent response is to make sure that we do not sustain the same results.”

The latest hikes are mostly due to rising costs like personnel, electricity and raw water. Councilwoman Betty Guardado zeroed in chemical costs to treat the water — up 136%.

“My goal has been to find ways for the city of Phoenix to become less reliant on the large, multinational chemical companies that provide us with services and supplies,” she said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Guardado wants Phoenix to start using city workers and stop using a private company to operate the Lake Pleasant Water Treatment Plant. She mentioned an internal audit that raised concerns about the plant’s maintenance, monitoring and compliance.

“I support bringing the Lake Pleasant Water Treatment Plant into the city where Our city workers will provide the level of quality and service that we need for such a strategically important asset to our whole water system. This step will bring us one step closer to independence from the multinational corporations that regularly engage in what economists are calling ‘greedflation.'”

Over the next two years, water rates will increase 26% and wastewater will go up 20%. The proposal also included reducing the monthly water allowance, which means about 90% of customers will pay for additional water at least once — if they continue to use the same amount. Depending on the season, the price per unit would be roughly $4. One unit equals 748 gallons.

The council approved increasing financial assistance to help lower income households struggling to pay water bills, auditing chemical and service contracts, and reviewing costs and inflation annually to determine whether to pass on any savings to customers.

Councilman Jim Waring and Councilwoman Ann O’Brien voted against the rate increases and allowance reductions.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.