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Water dreams dashed: Scottsdale, Maricopa County gridlocked over Rio Verde Foothills' water crisis

Scottsdale is allegedly not coming to the negotiating table to deliver water to hundreds of residents the city cut off at the beginning of the year.

PHOENIX — Just when a solution was on the horizon, it looks like the residents of Rio Verde Foothills will have to keep waiting for water.

Scottsdale recently came forward with a proposal to resupply the unincorporated community with water after cutting residents off at the beginning of the year.

Maricopa County rejected the proposal on Friday, calling it "impractical, inefficient, and overly burdensome."

PREVIOUS REPORTING: 'My solution is better': County weighs in on Rio Verde Foothills water fix

"Cutting off water is absolutely atrocious and is a black mark in the history of Arizona," said county supervisor Thomas Galvin of District 2, which includes Rio Verde Foothills. "What we're all sick of is publicity stunts from David Ortega, false information from Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega, and his inability to help these folks find a source of water."

Why did Maricopa County reject Scottsdale's Rio Verde Foothills water plan?

The board listed numerous points they saw as problems with Scottsdale's proposal, including:

  • Scottsdale hasn't identified a source of water for its plan
  • The city limits water distribution to a certain amount of acre-feet per year, but the city will be allowed to purchase many more acre-feet per year not available to Rio Verde Foothills residents
  • The city would significantly increase the rates it's charging to Rio Verde Foothills without justification
  • Scottsdale would only allow water to be sold to commercial water haulers and wouldn't allow residents to haul water themselves
  • The city wouldn't supply newly constructed Rio Verde Foothills homes with water, even though the county can't enforce a water delivery moratorium

The board has allegedly asked Scottsdale numerous times for answers to these questions. Scottsdale has reportedly not provided answers.

Scottsdale's mayor isn't sure where Rio Verde Foothills' water would come from

Brahm Resnik asked Ortega directly about where the city is getting the water for its Rio Verde Foothills proposal on a recent Sunday Square Off.

READ MORE: Where's water for Rio Verde Foothills coming from? No clear answer as Scottsdale votes on restoring service

Ortega originally said the city would purchase water from the Gila River Indian Community, but retracted that statement after the tribe told 12News it wouldn't provide any water to Scottsdale.

Ortega then told 12News that the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) would provide the water. He then walked back that statement after the leader of CRIT told 12News said she couldn't supply water to the city.

A Scottsdale spokesperson then provided a seemingly definitive answer: "The source of the water has not yet been determined."

"If there's a plan without water, then it's not a plan," Galvin said.

Maricopa County sees EPCOR as the best solution for Rio Verde Foothills

The county board, instead, recommended its own plan.

Canadian water utility EPCOR, under the county's plan, would provide Rio Verde Foothills with water in a short-term plan. The utility is also acting as the community's long-term solution, proposing to build a local water standpipe over the next three years for water access. The company's proposal is still awaiting Arizona Corporation Commission approval.

"EPCOR has gone on the record saying it would pay Scottsdale to use its existing infrastructure and would provide EPCOR-sourced water to Scottsdale to transport through its piping system," the board's resolution read.

Scottsdale has not commented on whether it would approve Maricopa County's counter-proposal.

A spokesperson for the city released the following statement after Friday's meeting:

"Maricopa County is the local government for Rio Verde Foothills and today's action makes it clear that they want to wash their hands of the matter and make Scottsdale responsible for their constituents. Should Maricopa County want to re-engage on Scottsdale's draft intergovernmental agreement, it remains on the table."

Have water-related Arizona news you feel needs to be covered? Email hbassler@12news.com with the information.

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