Rio Verde Foothills residents to lose water access Jan. 1: 'Water is our lifeblood'

Time is almost up for Rio Verde Foothills residents to find a new water source, with nearly 500 homes set to lose access at the start of the new year.

For about a year, the city of Scottsdale has been hauling water to the community, but they've decided to stop because of the ongoing drought.

Faucets won't go dry on Jan. 1, but those homes will need to find water somewhere else. And that means longer distances, higher bills - a problem for residences with a lot of mouths to feed.

'Water is our lifeblood'

Hangry Donkey Sanctuary

Hangry Donkey Sanctuary

Hangry Donkey Sanctuary in Rio Verde currently houses 25 donkeys that are old, injured or have been left for dead. They're living the good life, thanks to Rosemary Carroll.

"They make great pets," Carroll said. "I take him out on trails with me, I even ride one."

Rose pays for this piece of paradise and fills her water tank by burrowing into her own pocket. It's a nonprofit on a shoestring budget, and she's already paying higher prices for hay.

Now, her water bill could triple.

"Water is our lifeblood here," she said. "Especially in the summer, but even now, of course, the thought of us being cut off is just unbelievable to me."

After warning Rio Verde residents for years that this might happen, the city of Scottsdale is refusing to budge on their decision despite pleas from homeowners to continue the water shipments.

What's next?

The Rio Verde community is divided over creating its own water district, with disagreements from ones with wells versus the ones without.

"It’s a crapshoot," said resident Kathy Johnson. "I know 70 people who spent 40, 50, 60 grand drilling, and came up with nothing. So it’s just too risky."

A few private companies are willing to haul water from places like Apache Junction. But that’s double the distance - and triple the cost.

And for one woman caring for two dozen thirsty donkeys - it’s a real kick in the…butt.

"Worst case for me is I have to find homes with these donkeys, a lot of old and sick ones," said Rose Carroll. "But I can’t keep on doing it without water."

Some of the last ditch efforts include a lawsuit to force Scottsdale to keep the water flowing, or to buy water elsewhere and pay the city to process it.

Rio Verde residents submitted a petition to have water utility company EPCOR treat and deliver water to the community while Scottsdale would process the water for drinking, but the city rejected the proposal.

"Scottsdale has been a generous and accommodating neighbor for years, providing approximately 117 acre-feet of water to the RVF community annually," the city said in a statement. Scottsdale captures all in-city wastewater, treats it to high levels and recycles it for beneficial use. During the many years that RVF has been using Scottsdale’s water, the city did not have the ability to recycle this water for its own use.

"The city is now limited in extending previous accommodations due to regional drought issues for which its leadership has prepared for the last two decades," the statement continued. "As the government of the Rio Verde Foothills community, Maricopa County should exercise its authority and responsibility to establish a stable, long-term solution that accommodate this growing community and ensure its self-sufficiency."

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