More than 700 residences in the Rio Verde Foothills area that have been seeking a water supply since January will finally soon see government action after Scottsdale City Council approved an agreement that brings water to the area Tuesday.
The Intergovernmental Agreement with the newly formed Rio Verde Standpipe District was unanimously approved by the city council and councilmembers said the agreement was a win for both parties.
“It probably took way too long but (I’m) very happy to find us at this point,” said Councilwoman Tammy Caputi.
Scottsdale shut off access to the city’s water supply for Rio Verde residents in January, a decision that city officials warned would eventually happen for years due to worsening drought conditions. The Foothills area is an unincorporated area of Maricopa County east of Scottsdale.
Foothills residents have had to rely on themselves to find water for nine months and residents say they’ve often made difficult decisions.
“I look forward to getting the water to Scottsdale so that you can purify it so our residents don’t have to make a decision as to whether or not they’re going to flush their toilets or have enough water to cook food that night,” Rio Verde resident Michael Miola said to the Scottsdale City Council on Tuesday.
Miola is also one of the five board members on the Rio Verde Standpipe District board, which approved the agreement with Scottsdale on Sept. 2.
The Standpipe District was created with the passage of Senate Bill 1432, which allowed the creation of the district so it could find a water source for Rio Verde residents and treat it using a Scottsdale water treatment plant.
The agreement states Scottsdale will treat the water and make it available at the Pima Road Fill station where water haulers could then provide the treated water for up to 750 customers in the Foothills area. The standpipe district will also pay Scottsdale $1,000 per month plus $17.96 per 1,000 gallons of water delivered and that cost will annually escalate as Scottsdale water rates increase.
More than half of the proposed rate is a capital recovery fee that the city will use to upgrade the Pima Road Fill station.
Scottsdale officials estimated 85% of the capacity of the station will be used by the standpipe district, according to a Scottsdale news release. The release also stated Scottsdale is ready to treat water within seven days once all the agreement requirements are met.
The Scottsdale City Council also amended the agreement to require the standpipe district to provide a traffic mitigation plan out of concerns that water haulers would back up traffic near the Pima Road Fill station.
Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega said he was pleased that the agreement includes the provisions that Scottsdale outlined in February to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. He also commended the standpipe district board members for navigating governmental decisions as five civilians.
“They are doing so in spite of the fact that the board of supervisors did not step up on this,” Ortega said.
In August of 2022, the board of supervisors voted down a proposal that would have created a similar governing district for Rio Verde’s water needs and rejected Scottsdale’s first proposed intergovernmental agreement in March that would have required the county to distribute water to Rio Verde residents and handle billing.
The board cited a failure of Scottsdale to identify a water source as the main reason rejecting the city’s first proposed intergovernmental agreement.
Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, was one of the key lawmakers who ended up negotiating a bill to address Rio Verde’s water situation. He said during the session that he would have preferred the situation be resolved without legislation and legislation was a “last resort.”
Gov. Katie Hobbs expressed gratitude to Kolodin during a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 1432 on Aug. 22. She also thanked Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, and Rep. Laura Terech, D-Scottsdale, for their work on reaching a bipartisan agreement.
“This legislation I’m signing today shows what we can get done when we put politics aside for the good of everyday Arizonans,” Hobbs said during the bill signing.
Hobbs and Wadsack both said they could support legislation to address the wildcat developments that led to Rio Verde’s water issues, although neither provided details on what a proposal would look like.
“And if we have these types of water issues, we need to come together and find a way to fix this, because water is life. Water is not partisan; water is not political,” Wadsack said.
The intergovernmental agreement is set to expire at the end of 2025. A long-term solution for Rio Verde is in the works as the standpipe district negotiates with the private utilities company EPCOR, but the standpipe district board members were not prepared to discuss that solution during their Sept. 2 meeting.
Yellow Sheet Report Editor Wayne Schutsky contributed reporting to this article.