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Rio Verde Foothills residents voice urgent water needs to state leaders

Colorado River water
Posted at 4:20 PM, Jan 23, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — For the better part of a month now, thousands of Rio Verde Foothills residents have been without a guaranteed water source.

On Monday, dozens of residents gathered before state leaders to voice the urgency in getting the water back home immediately and long-term.

"Once we get to a certain point where that temperature hits that magical number, and I don't know what it is yet and we're very close, we're screwed,” said one water supplier to the room.

“It's abysmal,” said resident Wendy Walker.

Walker told a room of her neighbors and state leaders, her Christmas decorations are still up because she's using those storage bins to collect rainwater.

Others said they're showering at the gym and run the dishwasher once a week and toilet use is less than ideal.

“We dip (jugs) in rain water we have two to three-gallon jugs by our toilets and those are the only two we use,” said Walker.

Wendy was among the dozens who drove the 50 minutes from Rio Verde Foothills to the Arizona Corporation Commission on Monday for public comment on a proposed long-term plan from the utility company, EPCOR.

The proposal looks to drill a new well, add treatment, build a standpipe and construct a separate water storage facility that's estimated to cost $10 million.

The project is expected to take at least two years.

Because the state regulates EPCOR, the commission has to approve the plan.

“It's hard and it's bad, having to flush the toilet with rain water sucks,” said one resident during Monday’s public comment.

In a statement EPCOR told ABC15 they hope to be a long-term solution:

Rio Verde Foothills community is not in our service area, but we recognize the extremely difficult position these homeowners are in. When it became clear that residents of Rio Verde Foothills were at risk of losing their water supply, we were approached last year for a potential long-term solution. At the end of the day, this is about ensuring long-term access to clean and reliable water. 

Before we filed this application, we noted that EPCOR is unable to provide interim water service without a willing partner that has existing standpipe water infrastructure that we could wheel our water through. Our application is unrelated to the interim water supply challenges these homeowners are facing, but it does propose a viable and sustainable long-term solution that would involve building out standpipe water infrastructure and drawing from EPCOR’s own water resources. This proposed solution, which would take roughly 24 to 36 months to have in place, is being carefully considered by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Legal action against the city is an option for residents, but a judge already sided with Scottsdale in one case.

The city warned Rio Verde Foothills residents for years that a cutoff was coming, citing drought in the Colorado River and the impacts water hauling trucks have on city roads.

We recently heard from Mayor David Ortega after meeting with lawmakers on the matter.

“Those long-lasting problems are going to be remediated at the foot of Scottsdale, I have no other comment other than I'm always open,” said Mayor Ortega.

In the meantime, water haulers are in high demand and come at a premium.

Some residents feel they weren't given proper notice that the essential to living - is running dry at their home.

“If the water haulers were notified, they did not pass that through because I think they thought they were going to solve it for us,” said Wendy

Other solutions are also being proposed by lawmakers, but nothing finalized for now.