Long road ahead for Rio Verde Foothills water solution
(CN) SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CN) — Only a week after Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes confirmed its legality, an intergovernmental agreement that could give much-needed water to Rio Verde Foothills sits in the hands of Maricopa County.
The city of Scottsdale, which sold hauled water to the unincorporated community to the north for decades before it shut the taps off on Jan. 1, unanimously approved the agreement in a city council meeting Tuesday evening.
If executed, the agreement would see Scottsdale sell hauled water to the county, who would then distribute it to Rio Verde Foothills residents at a filling station. The county would pay Scottsdale for the water — up to 126 acre-feet, or more than 41 million gallons per year — which can’t be taken from Scottsdale’s preexisting supply. Instead, the city would have to front the costs from a third-party source before being reimbursed by the county.
The deal would last two years with the option to add a third.
“I think it’s a great starting point, and I’m so very glad that it’s happening,” said Christy Jackman, a 13-year Rio Verde Foothills resident, about the proposed agreement. “We need water. Let’s get it done.”
The more than 1,000 people living in the Foothills have been without a reliable water source for nearly two months. Scottsdale cut off water to the community as part of its drought management plan, and Mayor David Ortega has said for years that he must prioritize his city’s residents.
Meanwhile, Foothills residents flush their toilets daily at most and use rainwater to shower and wash their dishes. And residents have said before that as warmer weather approaches, the situation could become life or death.
“In a very short time, people are going to start running out of water,” said John Hornewer, a 20-year Foothills resident, during the City Council meeting. “Mayor Ortega, we’re not asking for a Santa Claus. We know there’s no Santa Claus.
“Please, please, please, negotiate with the county as quickly as you can.”
A short-term solution is in sight, but it still has a long way to go.
Supervisor Thomas Galvin, who represents the Foothills, already told Ortega in a letter this week that he has “concerns and questions about the proposed agreement, which will need to be discussed, addressed, and rectified, as part of a negotiation process, if the proposal is to move forward.”
His three biggest concerns are the source, the price and transportation.
Maricopa County spokesperson Fields Mosely said he considers some things in the agreement “non-starters.”
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met with its attorneys Thursday in executive session to hear legal advice on both the proposed agreement and the attorney general’s opinion, but took no action.
Mosely said the agreement came “much to our surprise,” and he can offer no timeline on when the county might approve.
Even if the county agrees, the deal is contingent on Scottsdale locating a third-party water source and securing 600 acre-feet of water, even though it would only provide up to 378 acre-feet over the potentially three-year deal. And until Maricopa County agrees, “no substantial work will begin” on locating that source, Scottsdale spokesperson Kelly Corsette said in an email.
Galvin reminded Ortega in his letter that the private water company EPCOR offered to be a part of the interim solution — an idea Ortega shot down last year. Ortega didn't respond to a request for comment.
EPCOR is on the County Corporation Commission docket to provide water to the Foothills as a long-term solution, but even if the commissioners approve it in June, it could be three years before the infrastructure is in place.