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Scottsdale issues ‘statement of facts’ regarding Rio Verde Foothills water dilemma

Photo of Water flowing at Scottsdale City Hall where the Rio Verde community needs it
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/
Rio Verde Foothills Domestic Water Improvement measure at City Hall
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

On the heels of headlines and what appears to be the threat of pending legal action, 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.

Amongst the lineage and history of the issue of water availability to the community part of the jurisdiction of Maricopa County, the statement of fact outlines a possible solution to long-term water availability in the Rio Verde Foothills.

“Rio Verde is a separate community governed by Maricopa County, not the city of Scottsdale,” the statement reads.

“Scottsdale has warned and advised that it is not responsible for Rio Verde for many years, especially given the requirements of the city’s mandated drought plan. The city remains firm in that position, and confident it is on the right side of the law. Nothing in the city’s action precludes residents in Rio Verde Foothills from purchasing water from other sources. The water haulers who have previously hauled water from Scottsdale have access to water from other jurisdictions and are still offering to haul water to serve the homes in Rio Verde.”

That action, which went into effect 17 days ago has spurred public protests and calls for action, but the Jan. 1 municipal action, city officials say, is a direct reaction to historic drought measures that must be taken.

“The city of Scottsdale has spent the last two decades developing plans to ensure the health of its water resources even through regional water challenges. The first iteration of the Drought Management Plan was adopted in 2003 and updated in 2014 to reflect the city’s development of a more robust water portfolio and improvements in modeling water supplies for projected drought scenarios,” the statement reads.

“In 2015, Scottsdale Water began enforcing a 12-month limit on temporary hydrant meters, which impacted multiple meters being used by water haulers supplying the Rio Verde area.”

Water conservation measures must be taken, city officials contend.

“In August of 2021, the Bureau of Reclamation declared the first ever Tier 1 shortage on the Colorado River system, effective for calendar year 2022. In response, Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson activated Stage One of the DMP in the same month which states ‘Scottsdale’s commercial and residential fill station shall be shut down or restricted at this stage. Any water hauling operations will cease unless the water hauling customer, whether residential or commercial, can prove indisputably that the hauled water is being supplied directly to a city of Scottsdale resident or business.’”

But part of the Jan. 16 ‘statement of facts’ provided to the Arizona Digital Free Press is a potential step toward a solution embodied through a water district being formed by Rio Verde residents and EPCOR’s desire to serve the community part of unincorporated land.

OF NOTE: Read it all for yourself below.

Rio Verde Foothills Domestic Water Improvement measure at City Hall

City officials report EPCOR communicated interest to the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2022 in a written communication to provide a possible long-term water solution, but voicing concerns in that letter that their solution would not be viable for at least two years pending plans for infrastructure construction, city officials report.

The proposal put forth to the Arizona Corporation Commission does not offer an interim solution from the company. The city of Scottsdale was then approached as that possible interim solution but uncertainties regarding this are still outstanding, city officials say.

However, Resolution No. 12063, which adopts draft language for the formation of the Rio Verde Foothills Domestic Water Improvement, will be considered at Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Thursday, Feb. 2.

“The city of Scottsdale Water Resources Division has been approached by a group of citizens who reside in the unincorporated area of Rio Verde, which borders on a portion of the city’s northeastern borders,” said Scottsdale Water Director Brian Biesemeyer in his report to City Council. “These citizens intend to petition Maricopa County to establish a water improvement district for the area … However, Arizona law requires that the proposed Improvement obtain the consent of the governing body of any municipality that is located within six miles of the proposed district area. The Fountain Hills Town Council provided consent on January 5, 2021. Accordingly, this group has requested consent from the city.”

Mr. Biesemeyer, in his report to City Council, recommended this measure to help the community of the Rio Verde Foothills find a long-term solution to water needs.

“If formed, the proposed water improvement district will seek to secure its own water rights and assured supply and put some or all of the district’s members in a better position of not being dependent upon the city’s water availability to provide for their needs. “Therefore, city staff recommend that the city consent to formation of the district.”

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