Scottsdale won't have to share water with Rio Verde residents, judge rules

An Arizona judge says she won’t compel Scottsdale to resume an arrangement that allowed residents of a neighboring community to get their water from a city standpipe, saying the flap isn’t the court’s concern.

Maricopa County Judge Joan Sinclair wrote in an order released this week that people living in the Rio Verde Foothills have not showed the city caused them irreparable harm and said community residents can obtain their water elsewhere.

Sinclair said the court "appreciates the difficulties inherent in allocating dwindling water resources" but cannot make water policy decisions in lieu of the appropriate authorities.

Sinclair’s order rejecting the residents’ request for an injunction to make Scottsdale temporarily resume the water arrangement was a a victory for the city.

Scottsdale on Jan. 1 cut off the water it long provided to Rio Verde Foothills, saying it needs to guarantee there is enough for its own residents amid a deep, long-lasting drought.

Homeowners in Rio Verde Foothills, located in unincorporated Maricopa County, sued Scottsdale earlier this month, demanding that access to the city’s water supply be restored to some 500 homes without working wells.

Several hundred residents are now using up the last of the Scottsdale water that haulers delivered in late December to large tanks buried in their yards, but have said they expect it will dry up soon. Using haulers to bring in water from communities farther away have significantly pushed up the cost of getting water.

On Jan. 25, Scottsdale city officials issued a statement on the water crisis, after members of the Scottsdale City Council met in an executive session. Thee statement reads:

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. 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.

State lawmaker requests expedited approval of EPCOR plans

State Rep. David Cook has sent a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission, urging them to expedite the approval process for EPCOR.

In a notice published on the company's website, officials with EPCOR say they have filed an application with the Arizona Corporation Commission for approval to provide the community with standpipe water service.

"EPCOR proposes that the rates to be charged for the Foothills Standpipe be established at $20.00 per 1,000 gallons," read a portion of the notice.

For comparison, Scottsdale has a tiered water rate system, with a single family residential home being charged $1.65 per 1,000 gallons, for the first 5,000 gallons (excluding base fees and other surcharges). After that, the rate increases depending on water use.

Residents in the Rio Verde Foothills were paying Scottsdale $7 for every 1,000 gallons.

"My water cost would go from $28 to $60, but the hauling would go down," said Reim.

As for security water in the coming months, there is talk of the City of Scottsdale partnering with EPCOR.

"We would go about determining the most cost-effective way to obtain the water, and build the facilities to provide the water," said Thomas Loquvam, EPCOR's Vice President of Legal and Public Policy. "We could bring new water into Scottsdale and use their infrastructure, but Scottsdale is facing its own challenges. We would only do that if Scottsdale was a ready, willing, able partner."

"Scottsdale profits," said Rio Verde Foothills resident Cody Reim. "It's EPCOR's water that’s coming through. We would just be using their infrastructure and paying them."

Even if EPCOR's plans are approved in an expedited manner, it would still take two to three years for the infrastructure to be completed.

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