Suburb Sues Neighboring City For Cutting Off Water Supply

Residents of a small, affluent suburb of Scottsdale, Arizona, have been forced to take drastic measures after the larger neighboring city shut off the water it had been providing to the community for years.

As the supply from Lake Mead and the Colorado River continue to dry up, Scottsdale officials advised that they could no longer provide the resource to Rio Verde Foothills and still meet the needs of city residents.

Although some residents of Rio Verde Foothills have wells on their property, hundreds of others were left without water. Many made arrangements with smaller suppliers, but their average monthly water bill ballooned from $220 to $660 as a result.

Now, the suburb is taking Scottsdale to court after the city refused to agree to an arrangement proposed by water utility service EPCOR.

The business said that it would provide extra water “at no cost to Scottsdale” until a new water facility is established to serve Rio Verde Foothills, thus allowing Scottsdale to continue supplying the suburb with water in the meantime.

Scottsdale, however, rejected that proposal, explaining in a statement this week: “Rio Verde is a separate community governed by Maricopa County, not the City of Scottsdale. Scottsdale has warned and advised that it is not responsible for Rio Verde for many years, especially given the requirements of the City’s mandated drought plan. The city remains firm in that position and confident it is on the right side of the law.”

Those left without a reliable or affordable water supply have taken steps to radically reduce their usage, including taking laundry to a friend or relative’s home, using disposable plates and utensils, or collecting rainwater with which to flush their toilets.

A number of Rio Verde Foothills residents participated in a protest in conjunction with a request for an injunction to prevent Scottsdale from curtailing water service.

Citing an applicable state law, the court filing asserts: “A city or town acquiring the facilities of a public service corporation rendering utility service without the boundaries of such city or town, or which renders utility service without its boundaries, shall not discontinue such service, once established, as long as such city or town owns or controls such utility.”

As Arizona State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy Director Sarah Porter explained, several other communities across the state rely on larger cities for their water supply.

“It’s a cautionary tale for home buyers,” she said. “We can’t just protect every single person who buys a parcel and builds a home. There isn’t enough money or water.”

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