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100s of homeowners in an upscale desert community north of Scottsdale will lose their water supplier in 3 months. What's next is unclear

Desert community north of Scottsdale faces cut off by water supplier in three months. County Board rejected the only solution on the table. There's no Plan B.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In just three months, hundreds of homeowners in an upscale desert community north of Scottsdale will lose their water supplier.

On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board rejected a last-ditch solution that would have allowed residents of Rio Verde Foothills Community (RVFC) to tax themselves to pay for water.

In the wake of that board vote, no one could say where a large number of Rio Verde residents will get their water on Jan. 1.

"It seems unbelievable, to be honest,"  said Meredith DeAngelis, who's lived in the community with her family for 11 years.

"We need to just keep making phone calls and keep pushing people to say how are they going to help our community. 

"We cannot go dry."

Scottsdale warned them water deliveries would end

The City of Scottsdale warned residents months ago that it would stop delivering water next year. Scottsdale was worried about its own water supply as Arizona absorbs deeper cuts next year to its Colorado River allocation

Supervisor Thomas Galvin, whose county district includes Rio Verde Foothills, said Scottsdale officials might reverse their decision on water hauling, knowing residents are working on a longer-term solution.

"I'm not going to speak on behalf of the City of Scottsdale," he said, "but I am confident that common sense is going to prevail."

When told of Galvin's remarks, a spokeswoman for the Scottsdale Water Department responded: "Scottsdale has not talked to the county regarding this topic. Our position has not changed.*

Community divided over what to do

RVFC is an unincorporated area that doesn't have its own municipal water supply. Many residents never thought much of it. 

They either got their water from working wells or hauled in from Scottsdale.

Many homeowners now say they weren't aware when they bought their property that their water supply might be at risk.

Two factions have torn the Foothills in half since the cutoff was announced by Scottsdale last November. 

They've been divided by what they see as the best way forward. 

One side wanted to form the resident-led taxing district, with the powers to obtain water from other sources. The other side wanted to continue the tradition of hauling water with another utility company.

After months of waiting, residents on Wednesday got to hear the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors vote to side with the pro-utility residents against forming the district. 

The vote might clear the way for EPCOR to be the primary water hauling service for the community, pending approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission.

But the utility said the earliest it could begin hauling water to the community was more than  two years away.


Why did the board vote against DWID?

Galvin led the charge to dismiss the motion to form a Designated Water Improvement District (DWID).

A DWID lets an area's water users take shared responsibility for managing said area's water through a board of locally elected members. The district then has the power to enter into water deals and put funding into water infrastructure construction.

Galvin gave numerous reasons as to why he believed a DWID wasn't the right move for the community. The reasons included:

  • Worries over how the DWID would properly represent the entire community
  • The majority of commenters telling the board they weren't in favor of the DWID
  • The fact that the DWID's members would have the power to condemn nearby property for water purposes

"A new governmental entity would be disruptive to the rural, independent lifestyle and spirit of the community," Galvin said during the meeting. "In contrast, a private water utility corporation can address these water needs and has greater support from the community."

What is EPCOR's plan?

The ACC was looking at two utility companies for candidates to deliver water to the community's residents: EPCOR and Global Water Response.

EPCOR may sound familiar to residents of the north Valley. The utility company stepped in to provide water to the New River and Desert Hills communities when Phoenix announced its cut-off to water hauling services in 2018. 

EPCOR reported back to the Corporation Commission last Friday, laying out the challenges of providing water to Rio Verde Foothills: It could take more than two years to complete once the project was approved, inflation could drive up the cost, and residents would pay a lot more for water than they're paying now. 

Read the entire EPCOR statement here: 

The other utility, Global Water Response, said it wouldn't haul water to the community.

Read the entire Global Water Response statement here:

Would the DWID have brought water faster?

The RVFC would have also had a potentially long, difficult road with the DWID. 

The community's most popular idea currently looks at the DWID buying a piece of land with water, potentially in the Harquehala Valley dozens of miles away. They'd then have to figure out how to get that water to Central Arizona Project (CAP) canals by forming some kind of agreement. 

If everything goes swimmingly, the water would enter the CAP and make its way to Rio Verde Foothills via pipeline. It would all cost a lot of money, but residents pushing for the DWID said it was the only choice they had.

The DWID process is in no way immediate. There was no telling how long it would have taken before the new water supply would have been accessible.

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