Rio Verde Foothills, a community of around 2,200 families just north of Scottsdale, is about to reach its January 1, 2023 deadline when the town will no longer have access to Scottsdale’s city standpipe, leaving 500 homes without a consistent water source.
Approximately one quarter of Rio Verde residents haul their water from another location, often utilizing the Scottsdale standpipe, and two hundred homeowners in the rural community rely on water haulers when their wells dry up, according to residents.
“It’s going to be really ugly and terrible for our homeowners and landowners,” said Karen Nabity, a seven-year Rio Verde Foothills resident. “Some of us will borrow water from a friend’s well, others will have to pay a water hauler from far away.”
Because of the water scarcity currently plaguing the West and the possibility of having to haul water from sources further from the town, residents of Rio Verde Foothills may have to pay exorbitantly high costs to receive water deliveries in the future. Presently, Scottsdale residents pay $1.65 per 1,000 gallons of water while Glendale residents pay 33 cents for the same rate, according to KPNX, an NBC affiliate in Phoenix.
Data from an October application filed by Canada-based water company Epcor Utilities suggests that Rio Verde residents may have to pay upwards of $20 per 1,000 gallons after the deadline. With residents reportedly using 48 million gallons per year, the community would collectively expect to pay approximately $960,000/year, or over $436 for each household per year.
The deadline was issued nearly a decade ago when Scottsdale requested Rio Verde residents find an alternative source of water as part of a contingency plan by Central Arizona Project, seeking to reduce consumption from the ever-draining Colorado River, according to Scottsdale Water, the municipal utility. The contingency plan came into effect after the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees Colorado River operations, declared a Tier 1 shortage for the first time in August 2021. The tier goes up when water levels go down, with Tier 3 being the highest and most severe.
The plan left the community of Rio Verde with a mix of complicated, intense emotions. “I expected to live out here for the rest of my life and now I actually question whether here is going to be here the rest of my life,” said John Hornewer, who moved to the area 23 years ago.
Others expressed their fury and frustration at the news. “I’m frustrated and flabbergasted,” said Jennifer Simpson, who like Hornewer has lived in Rio Verde for 23 years. “We’re sitting here still waiting,” she added in regards to the lack of municipal solutions.
According to Maricopa County supervisor Thomas Galvin, Epcor Utilities offered to send water through Scottsdale’s system for Rio Verde to use, but the city of Scottsdale has yet to approve the plan. Scottsdale mayor David Ortega has refused to help the small town, saying they “should manage their own destiny with their own water” and that “they’re going to have to find their own solution.”
“We just hope that Mayor Ortega can help these folks in the spirit of cooperation, now that the solution has been found to facilitate it,” said Galvin, who says he is also open to solutions that do not require aid from Scottsdale.
“We need as a community to find a solution,” said Adam Zingg, another Rio Verde Foothills resident. “I’m sure that if there’s no access to water, we’d be up in arms.”
Whether residents decide to move out of the community, receive help from neighbors, or search for other sources, the families of Rio Verde Foothills need water to survive (especially as the effects of climate change ramp up and make the West hotter and drier), and they need as much aid as they can get.