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State law emerges to facilitate Scottsdale water delivery in Rio Verde Foothills

Photo of Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega who is talkinb about Scottsdale water
In a prepared statement, Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega points out politics forced the water-delivery issue to first Superior Court, and then to the Arizona capitol. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Legislature sets rules to cure Scottsdale water debacle at Rio Verde Foothills
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Water in an arid environment can be hard to come by if planning, preparation and a keen understanding of one’s surroundings are not realized — a narrative of life today in the Sonoran Desert for many who call a swath of unincorporated land coined ‘The Rio Verde Foothills’ home.

The truth is what has happened in the past and what is happening now regarding access to water will no longer determine future planning on where and how much water will flow from the Colorado River — and other sources — into the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Scottsdale City Council, late last September, hosted a panel discussion in the morning hours at a conference room adjacent to Scottsdale Stadium coined “The Fieldhouse,” whereas city officials hosted expert testimony from state agencies on the scarcity of water.

On the first day of this calendar year, Scottsdale City Council implemented Tier 1 of the municipal water shortage conservation plan, which among other things ended water-delivery service to the Rio Verde Foothills — an unincorporated piece of land abutting the city of Scottsdale.

A few weeks following the Jan. 1 action by municipal leaders, protests were held at Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., and a lawsuit was brought forward at Maricopa County Superior Court days later.

In the end, following political posturing from elected leaders at Scottsdale and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, a Superior Court judge agreed with the legal interpretation of Scottsdale, which spurred a legal remedy at the state capitol whereas Arizona Senate Bill 1432 has set into motion new laws for cities and towns to provide water delivery to certain residents outside of municipal bounds.

Scottsdale’s proposed solution earlier this year? The creation of a Rio Verde Foothills water district through an intergovernmental agreement for a three-year period between Scottsdale and Maricopa County for the water delivery to residents impacted by Tier 1 water conservation tenets implemented at the municipal level.

Provision 6 of the SB 1432 points out authors of the bill at the Arizona Legislature are ‘working to identify a long-term solution for the water needs of the area prescribed by this section.’

Legislature sets rules to cure Scottsdale water debacle at Rio Verde Foothills

Now SB 1432 requires cities and towns of Arizona is required to provide water to unincorporated residents — adjacent to a population of 750,000 — where there is no adequate water source within 10 miles.

According to SB 1432 the municipality will be reimbursed for providing and delivering water and a standpipe district must be created to be responsible for billing and water conservation rules. This district will consist of a five-member board and the law is in effect for three years, tenets of the SB 1432 state.

“As part of its continuing leadership role in addressing the lack of a sustainable water supply for Maricopa County residents in the Rio Verde Foothills area, the City of Scottsdale stands ready to do its part as Arizona Senate Bill 1432 is signed into law,” said Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson in a prepared statement on June 15.

“Scottsdale worked diligently with legislators and the governor’s office and is confident that this legislation protects Scottsdale residents and addresses the city’s primary short-term concerns while placing the city back into a role as temporary provider of water for Rio Verde Foothills.”

Officials at City Hall point out key provisions of the municipal mechanisms unfolding through SB 1432 residents ought to be aware of:

  • Scottsdale will work to help create the standpipe district responsible for obtaining the water that Scottsdale would treat, and the city would be reimbursed for the full reasonable costs of service.
  • The standpipe district would be responsible for contracts and billing its customers, and for reimbursing Scottsdale for full and reasonable costs incurred as the city is not liable for any actions after the water is provided at the standpipe.
  • Scottsdale’s own water would not be used and Scottsdale’s state mandated Drought Management Plan would not be affected.
  • The number of homes eligible to receive water would be limited to 750.
  • Once the standpipe district is established, Scottsdale will work with the district on an IGA that would be brought forward for City Council consideration.

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega points out politics forced this issued to first Superior Court then to the Arizona capitol.

“Sometimes the mirage in the distance causes the nearest oasis to be overlooked,” he said.

“On Feb. 21, the Scottsdale City Council anticipated the terms of an intergovernmental agreement and unanimously approved a draft IGA for providing a temporary water supply to Rio Verde Foothills. As mayor, I believe that the draft IGA protects Scottsdale Water facilities, conforms to our drought management plan, is fiscally responsible, and could move forward to the proposed standpipe district.”

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