Williams’ automated water metering system is up and running.
Users have until July 31 to acquire a rechargeable plastic debit card at Williams City Hall to operate the digititalized system. Until that time, the quarter machines at the Williams Rodeo Grounds will be operational along with the new digital system.
Existing county residents will have to pay a one-time $75 setup fee to use the system, and they have to be able to verify county residency prior to June 13 by showing an electric bill. Only one account will be established for each permanent, single family residence on a parcel. Any water bought will be on top of the $75 fee.
Because of Williams’ depleted water supply, city council voted on May 23 to no longer provide water to new homes, subdivisions or other developments located outside Williams city limits.
Commercial water haulers, for the time being, can still haul Williams water to private residences in the county.
Water haulers, within Williams city limits, will be issued one card per household at no charge.
The price of per gallon of water will be the same charge for both county and city residents. Cards can be recharged at Safeway, 637 W. Route 66, and at city hall, 113 S. First St.
Joe Duffy, assistant city manager and finance director, said the system was turned on July 5 and 75 cards have been issued so far.
“I’ve had a few people with travel trailers (on county land requesting cards) and am telling them no,” Duffy said.
Dennis Dalbeck, city manager, explained the city’s stance on county residents using Williams water.
“The City of Williams regrets that any county resident has to share in any expense the city residents incur,” Dalbeck said. “However, the city is at an impasse with regard to water exploration and cost.
“County residents were asked to share in the expense of improving the water sales system.”
He said the number of county residents purchasing water at the rodeo grounds outnumber city residents by at least 10 to one.
“There are approximately 60 Williams households that haul their own water,” Dalbeck said. “We estimate between 600 to 1,000 county households rely on Williams water.
“The new card system costs approximately $24,000, so we’re asking those people who currently live in the county to help defray some of this expense.”
He pointed out city council had the option of stopping all water sales to county residents but opted not to because many county residents work and shop in Williams and send their children to Williams schools.
“But the fact remains the city has a major challenge to secure a reliable water source,” Dalbeck said. “Wells are very expensive and Williams residents will be paying the price for these wells for many years to come.
“County residents may be angered over the fact they are asked to defray a very small portion of this expense, but they do have other options available. City residents do not.”
Duffy stressed the new system is more accurate, faster and more user friendly.
“Users will be able to purchase as much value as they want or need to put on the card and use it till the value goes down to zero,” he said.
Duffy said once the system is shut off, a digital display shows how much is left on the card. Once it’s empty, a card can be recharged for a new amount purchased.
“The new system is accurate to 0.002 percent, which means customers will get as close to 32 gallons per quarter as possible no matter what the water pressure is at the standpipe,” Duffy said.
He said the current quarter system is not nearly as accurate and requires city staff time to count quarters collected. Duffy also pointed out the City of Flagstaff has used the same system for three years with no down time. In the event of power failure, the digital machines will operate 30 minutes without power.
“The two card machines are independent of each other so if one side goes down, the other will still work,” he said.
A county press release issued June 28 states, “The Coconino County Board of Supervisors recognizes the need to conserve water for existing city residents and businesses and that the City of Williams is under no obligation to serve the water needs of unincorporated county residents.”
However, the county also goes on to absolve itself from being responsible for those water needs.
“Legally, Coconino County has no authority over water quantity or ensuring that water is adequate prior to issuing a building permit for new construction,” the press release states. “In an effort to notify potential new residents and business owners of the critical water situation, the county community development department will include this information (about water hauling availability) in all new construction packets.”
Other sources of water are available for private and commercial hauling at the Bellemont Water Company, the Valle Airport and the Grand Canyon Inn.
In Flagstaff there are two locations: Lake Mary Water Treatment Plant at 4500 Lake Mary Road and 5401 E. Commerce Ave. These locations are coin-operated or debit cards can be purchased at Flagstaff City Hall, 211 W. Aspen Ave., or Conoco Travel Center, 7180 N. Highway 89.