If you have another source of water, stop playing games and deliver it to Rio Verde Foothills residents now. That’s the message today from Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to the City of Scottsdale.
It’s been three months since Scottsdale ended a decades-long practice of hauling city water to 500-700 residents of the unincorporated Rio Verde Foothills area.
“Scottsdale’s mayor and city manager have said they are in negotiations for an alternate water source which can serve Rio Verde Foothills. If that’s the case, great! Finish the negotiations, get the water, and get it to people in need,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4. “But so far, Scottsdale won’t disclose the source of this water. We can’t prove it exists. So, if this is all a mirage, and there is no other water source, they need to take the EPCOR solution seriously.”
Months ago, the County suggested working with private water provider, EPCOR.
“EPCOR has gone on the record stating that it will pay Scottsdale to use its existing infrastructure and will provide EPCOR-sourced water to Scottsdale to transport through its piping system,” said Supervisor Tom Galvin, who represents Rio Verde Foothills, Scottsdale, and the rest of District 2. “I proposed this common-sense solution months ago. This water will be treated to required standards, and then be made available to water haulers for exclusive delivery to Rio Verde Foothills residents, resulting in lower costs to residents, faster water delivery, and fewer layers of government involved.”
The Board officially endorsed that approach in a resolution today.
Watch the special meeting here.
It's an expedient, cost-effective solution with precedent, having already worked in unincorporated New River.
“It’s really interesting how similar the situation in Rio Verde Foothills is to the one I faced a few years ago in my district,” said Supervisor Bill Gates, District 3. “After the City of Phoenix made a decision to no longer haul city water to New River, I reached out to EPCOR. They’re a great partner, and they agreed to provide EPCOR-sourced water and long-term infrastructure to New River. But that was just one piece. Just as important, the City of Phoenix did the right thing by keeping the water on for New River residents until EPCOR could take over. I’m really proud of that public-private partnership which continues to benefit New River, and I believe a similar approach is appropriate in Rio Verde Foothills.”
To date, Scottsdale has rejected negotiating with EPCOR even through the city would benefit financially from the arrangement and keep its own water.
Instead, Scottsdale proposed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that would increase water costs for Rio Verde residents and limit the amount of water they can use. Scottsdale wanted Maricopa County—which has never been a water provider—to pay for and manage a new source of water that they haven’t even been able to identify.
The Board unanimously rejected Scottsdale’s proposal as part of today’s resolution.
“The proposed IGA is just a poison-pill of roadblocks. It’s truly government bureaucracy at its worst,” said Galvin. “If there’s another source of water, and you have the pipes, just send the water to Rio Verde. You don’t need the County. You don’t need an IGA. If you don’t have the water, then allow EPCOR to sell the water. Let them pay you. Be the good guys. But Mayor Ortega won’t do it. It’s bizarre. We’ve got Rio Verde Foothills residents who are nervous. They’re scared. Their future is uncertain.”
Adding yet another layer of complication, Mayor Ortega asked state legislators to get involved. SB 1093 takes the highly unusual step of trying to turn a proposed IGA that only one side supports into a state law.
“It’s unfortunate some lawmakers are advocating for bigger government and increased costs for constituents,” said Hickman. “That’s certainly not the conservative brand of government that my colleagues and I support.”
Board members believe, at the least, SB 1093 should be amended to make it clear that Scottsdale can and should work with EPCOR to solve this problem.