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Lawmakers back Rio Verde in water dispute 

Rio Verde, water, Scottsdale, Cook, Colorado River, drought, groundwater, David Ortega, Maricopa County, Chaplik, Reigning Grace Ranch, Griffin, Kolodin, Hobbs, EPCOR, Mesa, Gilbert

State lawmakers are ready to intervene in a conflict between Scottsdale and Rio Verde over dwindling water supply that Scottsdale says it is not required to share with the community. (Photo by Pexels)

State legislators are prepared to intervene in a conflict between Scottsdale and Rio Verde over dwindling water supply that Scottsdale says it is not required to share with the community.

Rio Verde was officially cut off from Scottsdale’s water on Jan. 1 and the citizens sued Scottsdale.

A Superior Court judge ruled that Scottsdale is not required to give its water to Rio Verde as it has done for the past several years. Scottsdale says it has repeatedly warned Rio Verde that as drought conditions worsen, it will not guarantee the community’s water supply forever.

Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, said he saw the issue unfolding on national TV and wanted to help. He suggested temporary, three-year and long-term proposals that would secure water for Rio Verde.

Cook, Rio Verde, Scottsdale, Colorado River, drought, groundwater, Kavanagh, Kolodin, Chaplik, Griffin, EPCOR

Rep. David Cook, R-Globe

For the next month, Cook is urging Scottsdale to turn the water back on just for a grace period, where something more permanent can be agreed on. Then, hopefully Rio Verde can negotiate with a tribal nation and secure about 100-acre feet of Colorado River water for the next three-or-so years. Long-term, a company needs to expand to Rio Verde.

“The long-term solution is getting a utility company’s area expanded. … You don’t have a short-term solution without a long-term solution,” Cook said.

Scottsdale City Council members went into a two-hour-long executive session on Jan. 24 to discuss the Rio Verde issue, but seemingly won’t change course, according to a press release issued Jan. 25.

“The court decision speaks for itself,” Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega said in a text Jan. 25.

“The Scottsdale City Council met in executive session (Jan. 24) regarding legal issues related to the Rio Verde Foothills area,” the press release said.

The release continues to encourage Maricopa County to find solutions for Rio Verde.

“Scottsdale is willing to discuss solutions that comply with the city’s state-mandated Drought Management Plan and do not negatively impact water resources for City of Scottsdale residents.”

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, represents Rio Verde and Scottsdale in the state Senate, and says he has a bill waiting in the wings if this crisis isn’t resolved soon on a local level, but he’s “hopeful” that it will be.

Kavanagh’s bill would require a municipal water system – like Scottsdale’s – that has provided water to people in the past – like Rio Verde – but no longer does, to continue their service if an outside company – like EPCOR – is willing to pump water from an outside source through the system.

The bill stipulates that the municipality would be reimbursed for the expenses and that the arrangement would end if it started to jeopardize supplies to municipal customers.

Kavanagh said he doesn’t think that Scottsdale likes his bill, but confirmed that his fellow Legislative District 3 lawmakers Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, and Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, are in support of it.

Kolodin also said a legislative town hall is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Jan. 29 at Reigning Grace Ranch with himself and Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, set to attend.

“At that point, it’s just cruel,” Kolodin said of Scottsdale’s refusal to assist Rio Verde.

Cook spoke with county stakeholders to discuss possible solutions. He also

spoke to the attorney general and Gov. Katie Hobbs’ staff. Cook said he met with Hobbs’ team.

“I’m optimistic that the Ninth Floor, along with the Legislature, can solve this thing for all Arizonans,” Cook said on Jan. 25.

He spoke with the Scottsdale city manager about the amount of water Rio Verde needs and the number is hard to pin down. “He’s supposed to send me the information by 1 o’clock today (Thursday) and he was very helpful,” Cook said of the manager.

EPCOR – a large utilities company – currently has a proposal with the Arizona Corporation Commission, which Cook said he sent a letter in support of. Another hearing has been scheduled. EPCOR could expand its service to Rio Verde eventually, but it would take longer than a few days or even years for EPCOR to build the infrastructure.

These ideas would be hashed out among tribes, EPCOR, Maricopa County, Scottsdale and Rio Verde, and it wouldn’t involve the Legislature.

In the meantime, Rio Verde residents are panicked and angry. Rio Verde residents protested at Scottsdale’s Jan. 10 City Council meeting, holding sings with slogans like, “why does Mayor Ortega hate us?”

Cook said that Scottsdale is not the only Arizona municipality that provides water to another community. Mesa and Gilbert do the same and they’re not the only ones. He doesn’t want Scottsdale’s action to become a trend and drive Arizona into a panic.

Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jakob Thorington contributed to this report.




  1. This is not an issue for legislation. Rio Verde home owners bought/built their home knowing there was a not a guaranteed water supply. In fact Scottsdale has periodically over the years informed those people who were living outside of Scottsdale city limits that they needed to find their own water supply. The people in Rio Verde built in unincorporated areas for a variety of reasons, but one main one is avoidance of taxes. Tough! Just like building in a flood plain, building in a drought area is your responsibility and the government (other taxpayers) should not have to foot the bill for your foolish decision.

  2. Interesting to see all this play out, when everyone in the area was aware that this would come to a head sooner or later. The builders and residents of rio verde absolutely knew that they had no water supply, and good for Scottsdale for standing their ground and resisting the pressure from Galvin and Milhaven. First she attempts to sell out our preserve to moneyed interests, now she wants to sell out our water infrastructure. Scottsdale taxpayers invested in this over the long haul, if you want to live somewhere you pay no taxes for city services, do not expect to get them for free by strong arming us!

  3. Rio Verde residents chose their illegal development so they could escape government and escape paying their fair share of taxes. They should not be helped. It sets a bad precedent for everyone else in Maricopa County who live by rules and pay their fair share of taxes, and the water wars are just starting. I wonder what the real reason is for the few, not all, legislators voting for this bill. I doubt it’s altruism.

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