Arizona community loses first round in fight for water

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January 23, 2023 – Rio Verde Foothills, an unincorporated community, does not have a water supply.

Owners of million dollar homesOpens in a new tab. relied on water deliveries trucked in by a local hauler from the City of Scottsdale and were warned by Scottsdale last year that given the water crisis facing the state, water hauling would no longer be allowed.

Scottsdale kept its word, shutting off the public water station where haulers were filling up their trucks on January 1.  The Washington PostOpens in a new tab. reported that the city manager’s office wrote, “The city cannot be responsible for the water needs of a separate community especially given its unlimited and unregulated growth.”   The action followed a decision in 2022 by Maricopa County to deny formation of a citizen-led water district serving Rio Verde Foothills.

Various proposals are floating around, including having the private utility EPCOR deliver water to the community, but it will take about two years before infrastructure can be completed.  Another is to use water leased from the Gila River Indian CommunityOpens in a new tab. which has offered to help, run it through Scottsdale’s infrastructure, and then have it transported to Rio Verde Foothills residents.  There are water quality issues with this proposal, but State Rep. David Cook thinks it is a viable solution and if approved by the City of Scottsdale, would mean that the Foothills will have water in as little as two weeks.  Earlier, the San Carlos Apache TribeOpens in a new tab. also offered to help by leasing its Central Arizona Project water to Rio Verde.

While possible solutions are being discussed, litigation has started.  Rio Verde Foothills sued the City of Scottsdale, initially asking for a temporary stay now of Scottsdale’s shut off and a preliminary stay throughout the duration of litigation.  The Maricopa County Superior Court denied the stay, writing:

Plaintiffs have not provided evidence of irreparable harm. There has been no demonstration that the Plaintiffs are unable to obtain water at all from any source. The Court does not believe given the language of the statute noted above that Plaintiffs have shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits. Loss of water from Scottsdale to persons living outside the city’s boundaries is a hardship to Scottsdale. Given the current drought conditions in the area, loss of water to anyone is a hardship. But the Plaintiffs have not shown that they are unable to access water at all. They just cannot access it from the Scottsdale Standpipe at this time.

Read the order [PDF]Opens in a new tab..



Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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