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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

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Dissolution of a deal: Maricopa County denies creation of Rio Verde Foothills water district

Scottsdale has 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. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Maricopa County remains steadfast meanwhile Rio Verde dwellers await solution
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

In the early evening hours of Friday, March 3, local news outlets across the Valley of the Sun were abuzz reporting a unanimous decision by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors earlier in the day effectively ending an opportunity for the creation of a taxing district in the form of a water district.

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.

However, the Maricopa County Superior Court on Jan. 20, court records show, sided with the city of Scottsdale’s legal argument. Days earlier, Scottsdale officials, anticipating the ruling, issued a ‘statement of facts’ that included a proposed solution to water-delivery to several hundreds inhabitants of the area.

Then, on Feb. 15, Scottsdale Councilwoman Tammy Caputi took to Twitter to announce the proposed measure to allow negotiations to open between City Manager Jim Thompson and Maricopa County leaders.

“Next Tuesday, City Council will consider an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County — the elected representative for Rio Verde residents,” she said via Twitter and confirmed by the Arizona Digital Free Press.

“This agreement would allow the county to provide water to their residents in Rio Verde, and eliminate any adverse impacts to the residents of Scottsdale. Scottsdale would be profitably reimbursed for all costs to our system and infrastructure. We would not be using one drop of our own water, and in fact would end up in a net positive position. This is a win for everyone, and hopefully we can move forward with this agreement and get much needed water to the desperate folks in Rio Verde. I want to thank all my council colleagues for the tremendous amount of work that went into coming up with a positive outcome for all.”

Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson in the summer of 2022 at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/

Maricopa County and Scottsdale squabble continues

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega says the H2O conundrum rests solely on the collective shoulders of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

“It is unfortunate that Supervisor Galvin continues to deflect his responsibilities to me,” he told the Arizona Digital Free Press yesterday. “Conversely, I will continue to serve my constituents and continue to protect Scottsdale Water from those who would commandeer our facilities.”

Scottsdale municipal leaders, in contrast, continue to seek a solution to the ongoing legal melodrama.

“The Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved a proposed agreement that would assist Maricopa County in providing water to county residents in Rio Verde Foothills,” said Kelly Corsette, Scottsdale public affairs director.

“The city of Scottsdale recognizes that Maricopa County may have concerns with elements of that proposal, but rather than directing their staff to work with the city on those concerns, they rejected Scottsdale’s offer of assistance outright. Maricopa County is the local government for Rio Verde Foothills and today’s action makes it clear that they want to wash their hands of the matter and make Scottsdale responsible for their constituents.”

Scottsdale leaders say the door is open for Maricopa County to come to the proverbial table of compromise.

“Should Maricopa County want to re-engage on Scottsdale’s draft intergovernmental agreement, it remains on the table,” Mr. Corsette said of the municipality’s desire to solve the problem.

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