Rural community outside Scottsdale divided over its water future

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series titled “KTAR Water Watch,” which will explore the present and future of water supply across Arizona and the metro area. of Phoenix.

PHOENIX – Rio Verde Foothills has a water problem.

The rural community located more than 30 miles northeast of Scottsdale in an unincorporated county gets its water from wells on the property or from water tanks filled by haul trucks.

For decades, Scottsdale has been one of the main suppliers of water for these trucks. That changed last year.

The city announced that by the end of the year, residents of Rio Verde Foothills will no longer use Scottsdale as a source for their hauled water.

According to Scottsdale, it was a move that had been in the works for some time. The drought did not help the arrangement, according to Scottsdale Water executive director Brian Biesemeyer.

Rio Verde Foothills resident Linda Vinson was caught off guard.

“We had heard a little about this or maybe that, but when we heard it for sure…it was pretty scary,” she said. “That’s when we found out about the DWID effort.”

DWID, or Domestic Water Improvement District, is one of the ideas for the water future of the Rio Verde foothills.

Sarah Porter, director of ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, describes it as “a government entity with the power to acquire water supplies and obtain funding to develop water distribution or treatment infrastructure. some water”.

For Rio Verde Foothills residents like Karen Nabity, a DWID wasn’t a new idea. She got involved in the effort to form one in 2018.

“Our group is looking for an outside water source that we can bring,” she said. “So that those people who depend on water transported can always have a source of water.”

Nabity relies on hauled water for her home, as does Meredith Deangelis, who has used her public relations background to promote the pro-DWID effort.

“There must be five people who sit on the water district board…voted by the community [and] overseen by Maricopa County,” she said. “It’s not like this is a company that’s going to come in here and try to do rate hikes.”

A DWID is not favored by everyone in the community.

Christy Jackman, a Rio Verde Foothills for 13 years, has been skeptical of the idea for a year. She’s a vocal adversary.

Not only is Jackman worried about the level of control the DWID might have, but she thinks the optional nature of the community’s proposed water district would leave some residents vulnerable.

“[I started] collect signatures against him,” she said. “In the space of about two weeks, I got 660 signatures from residents here and turned them over to the board of supervisors.”

A home water improvement district may be proposed by residents and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors must implement it.

The area supervisor at the time, Republican Steve Chucri, began holding neighborhood meetings.

Linda Vinson, who supports DWID, was at some of these meetings.

“There was a big vocal group against and a group for,” Vinson recalled. “The meeting was less than cordial.

Amy Wolff was one of the residents against the DWID. She thinks both sides have made their case well, but she still doesn’t believe DWID is the answer.

“There’s a lot of history here,” Wolff said. “I’ve been here almost 17 years and every few years someone comes up with some sort of plan to control the water.”

A big issue for Wolff is control.

“I moved here because I hate HOAs,” she laughs. “I certainly don’t want a government entity formed by neighbors…it’s more about personal freedom.”

Wolff also says she would much rather continue using private water carriers than enter into a DWID.

“I can be my own consumer,” she says. “There are already water carriers all over the state that kind of advertised here.”

John Hornewer, a Rio Verde Foothills resident and water hauler himself, disagrees with this sentiment. He supports DWID because of his experience with other home water improvement districts in the state.

“Until we have dedicated water, we will always be vulnerable to being in this position,” he says. “Private utilities won’t be dedicated to water…we’re just throwing the box on the road.”

Discussions between the two sides of the DWID debate came to a halt in September 2021, however, when supervisor Steve Chucri resigned following comments he made about the other supervisors’ handling of the 2020 election audit.

The replacement for the former Chucri supervisor, Thomas Galvin, was appointed months later in December 2021. In the minds of some residents who support the DWID, he is not moving fast enough on the issue of the foothills of the Rio Verde .

Some residents therefore decided to sue the county in an attempt to speed up the process.

“All we want is for them to put us, in a timely manner, on their agenda so they can vote yes or no on the DWID,” Deangelis said.

DWID opponent Christy Jackman disagrees and thinks Supervisor Galvin is just taking her time to consider the matter.

“He thought about it and he studied it,” she says. “I appreciate his efforts to go slow and get it right.”

Maricopa County declined to comment due to the ongoing lawsuit.

New District 2 Supervisor Thomas Galvin spoke about the water situation in the Rio Verde foothills just months after his appointment.

Galvin said he was looking to learn more about the issue and weigh each option.

“There’s still plenty of water for everyone in Arizona,” he said. “I don’t want people to panic or anyone to think we’re running out of water.”

He also clarified his commitment.

“Residents deserve someone to come and help them find a solution quickly and properly,” Galvin said at the time. “I intend to be that person.”

Nabity is afraid that time is running out.

“We need to be in intergovernmental agreements that usually take over a year to put in place, and have them in contracts by June,” Nabity said. “We need approval now.”

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