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Judge sides with Scottsdale after Rio Verde Foothills residents sue over water access

A judge has denied a temporary stay filed by residents in Rio Verde Foothills following the loss of water access from the Scottsdale Standpipe.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has denied a request for a temporary stay in the loss to water access for residents in the Rio Verde Foothills area.

The request was filed against the City of Scottsdale by residents living in Rio Verde. The ruling from Judge Joan M. Sinclair was issued on Jan. 20, in favor of the City of Scottsdale.

The ruling said in part:

"Loss of water from Scottsdale to persons living outside the city’s boundaries is a hardship to Scottsdale. Given the current drought conditions in the area, loss of water to anyone is a hardship. But the Plaintiffs have not shown that they are unable to access water at all. They just cannot access it from the Scottsdale Standpipe at this time."

Rio Verde residents filed a lawsuit against the City of Scottsdale Thursday in an effort to get their water services restored. 

In the lawsuit, residents claim the city violates state law and must resume providing domestic water services to Rio Verde Foothills.

After more than a year of warning, the City of Scottsdale made good on its threat earlier this month to cut off about 500 homes in Rio Verde Foothills from city water.

Because of Arizona's long and record-breaking drought, Scottsdale decided it needed to conserve its own water. It wanted the city's water to be used by city residents and Rio Verde Foothills lies outside the city limits.

In the lawsuit, residents cite Arizona Statute A.R.S. § 9-516(c), which states in Arizona, a municipality has the right to provide water service "through its municipal water plant to customers without, as well as within, its corporate limits." Once established, a municipality may not discontinue water service to nonresidents as long as it owns or controls the utility.  

Residents state the discontinuation of domestic water services has left the neighborhood with no reliable source of water.

According to the lawsuit, residents believe Scottsdale can accept water delivery from EPCOR, and they need to obtain the necessary approval to do so.

Residents would like to see EPCOR, a water utility company, provide water to the City of Scottsdale for Rio Verde Foothills and pay the city to process it for drinking.  

The City of Scottsdale has said it will not work with any external companies to provide Rio Verde Foothills with any water. Every other plan the community has come up with for a guaranteed source of water has also failed.

On Wednesday, Rio Verde residents protested outside the Scottsdale City Council, saying they were counting the days until their taps ran dry.

On Monday, the City of Scottsdale issued a statement reiterating its stance that Rio Verde is a separate community governed by Maricopa County, not Scottsdale.

"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. 

In the past, water haulers were allowed to fill-up tanks at City of Scottsdale fill stations. These water haulers are largely commercial enterprises. Given the unprecedented drought on the Colorado River, the city ceased allowing any of this water to be transported outside of the City in compliance with its Drought Management Plan. This means the water haulers Rio Verde has relied upon must find another source of water to haul. They have found other sources of water and are still offering to haul water to serve the homes in Rio Verde.

The physical infrastructure, staff, operations and water rights that comprise Scottsdale Water - the city's municipal water utility - have been designed, built and financed (through user rates and fees) by the residents and businesses of Scottsdale, for the users of the system.

Scottsdale has a 100-year Assured Water Supply as certified by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. That assured water supply designation applies to the city's population at build-out - it does not account for residents outside its service area who are not connected to the City’s water utility delivery system."

You can read the full lawsuit below:

Water Wars

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