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The Rio Verde Foothills Scottsdale water delivery legal squabble reported

A view of water needed at the Rio Verde Foothills
One member of Scottsdale City Council took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to announce a potential solution coming in form of an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County. (Photo by Arianna Grainey/
Scottsdale leaders may have struck solution to political controversy
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — under state law — has the authority to temporarily supply water to residents of unincorporated land coined ‘The Rio Verde Foothills,’ according to a Feb. 14 legal opinion issued by Kris Mayes, Maricopa County attorney.

The legal opinion issued earlier this week is in response to a legal question poised by state Rep. David Cook (R) who represents District 8 in the Arizona Legislature. Rep. Cook asked for a formal legal opinion from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which states:

“Can a county board of supervisors enter into a short-term agreement on an emergency basis with a government entity or private company to supply water to county residents who lost their previous water source and are awaiting the construction of a new permanent water system?”

Scottsdale issues ‘statement of facts’

The Scottsdale City Manager’s Office Monday, Jan. 16, issued a ‘statement of facts’ regarding the recent decision to end water access to residents of the Rio Verde Foothills, which ended Jan. 1. Then, about a week later, Wednesday, Jan. 25, through Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette, Scottsdale City Council released the following statement on the unfolding Rio Verde dilemma:

The Scottsdale City Council met in executive session Tuesday regarding legal issues related to the Rio Verde Foothills area, an adjacent portion of unincorporated Maricopa County where some homes and properties have been developed without a planned water supply,” the statement reads.

“Pursuant to state law, what was discussed in the executive session is confidential. The city is aware that potential solutions are being proposed and discussed at the county and state levels. Scottsdale continues to encourage Maricopa County — the elected local government for the residents of Rio Verde Foothills — to lead discussions toward possible solutions on behalf of their constituents. Scottsdale is willing to discuss solutions that comply with the city’s state-mandated Drought Management Plan and do not negatively impact water resources for city of Scottsdale residents.”

The statement provided, at the time, came on the heels of a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling in the city of Scottsdale’s favor, which requested a temporary water-delivery service to the Rio Verde Foothills community.

One member of Scottsdale City Council took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to announce a potential solution coming in the form of an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County to ultimately allow water to flow again from Scottsdale to Rio Verde tanks.

A solution arises at Scottsdale City Council?

Scottsdale Councilwoman Tammy Caputi says a watershed moment is expected at City Hall next week.

“Next Tuesday, City Council will consider an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County — the elected representative for Rio Verde residents,” she said Wednesday, Feb. 15, 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 Council meets 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

Linda Milhaven, former elected leader at Scottsdale City Council, has been a vocal advocate of finding a solution for the residents of the Rio Verde Foothills.

“Not one drop of Scottsdale water nor .1 cent of Scottsdale money is needed to help the residents of Rio Verde Foothills while they build their own infrastructure,” she said of how she views the issue.

“According to the city manager’s statement, one concern was doing business directly with EPCOR, a regulated water provider. He suggests the city should only do business with other governmental agencies. This is confusing because the city has an existing contract with EPCOR and with many other non-governmental entities.”

Ms. Milhaven says the deal that appears to have been struck is one that has already been on the table.

“It has been suggested that the county should be responsible for providing water to Rio Verde Foothills; however, they do not have the means to do so,” she explained. “The recent Attorney General’s opinion allows the county to act as a go-between by contracting with the city of Scottsdale to treat and transport the water provided by EPCOR. This is essentially the same deal the city turned down but with the county in the middle.”

Water: the most precious of all resources is scarce in the Valley of the Sun and with recent realization of drought conditions measures are being taken, experts say. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/

An opportunity for water conservation education?

Scottsdale litigator Lisa Borowsky, who is a former member of Scottsdale City Council, agrees with the notion the municipality ought to be working with the Board of Supervisors.

“The city should be working with the Board of Supervisors, Arizona Corporation Commission and, perhaps, neighboring tribal communities to source and expedite alternatives in order to continue water service to Rio Verde residents,” she said.

“EPCOR’s application envisions, as one alternative, tapping Rio Verde’s water allotment in order to shift the service area source. But, the application at the Corporation Commission may take two years to finalize, which would be impossible to sustain. An interim solution, or an expedited approval at the Corporation Commission, is obtainable through collaboration. Working in a diplomatic fashion to rally neighboring communities to be part of the solution, while working with the Rio Verde residents to identify the best long term solution is key, i.e, a DWID or the possibility of annexation.”

For Ms. Borowsky, education is key — and the city of Scottsdale needs to be a leader in all things water.

“The city led the charge in investing in a world class water treatment facility, which provides for treatment and reuse of wastewater. We are at the head of the class when it comes to water recharge and reuse,” she explained. “The city should expand its water focus to include rainwater harvesting requirements for new development, as well as incentives for established neighborhoods, to actively participate in this important process.”

Ms. Borowsky says she sees an opportunity to educate those who call an arid environment home, like the community of Scottsdale, on how to properly conserve precious resources.

“Offering residents, business owners, developers, and other stakeholders complimentary courses, perhaps in collaboration with Scottsdale Community College, focused on resource conservation, especially where water is concerned, would be a smart next step,” she said. “If managed properly, and with precautions taken in advance of being forced to initiate drought management restrictions, Scottsdale will thrive and have the water supply necessary to service our full and robust community.”

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