Rio Verde Foothills residents divided on best solution for interim water source
Apr 28, 2023, 4:35 AM
(KTAR News Photo/Luke Forstner)
PHOENIX — Rio Verde Foothills residents gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday to draw attention to their ongoing lack of a guaranteed water source.
All the residents want water, but there is some disagreement on the best way forward.
While holding signs and posing for photos, residents argued amongst themselves about two different bills moving through the state legislature, each presenting different potential solutions for the rural community outside Scottsdale.
Both bills would address the community’s water needs in the interim until a permanent solution is in place.
Private utility company Epcor recently presented a plan to the Arizona Corporation Commission that would allow them to step in as a provider. Executing that plan, if approved, would still take time.
HB2441, introduced by Republican State Rep. Gail Griffin, would require cities like Scottsdale to provide water to dependent communities like Rio Verde Foothills unless a permanent alternative is available.
Rio Verde Foothills resident Wendy Walker is among those who voiced support for the bill.
“Gail Griffin’s bill is absolutely simple, straightforward solution,” she said. “It’s the quickest way for us to get water.”
The other bill, HB2561, would create a governmental entity known as a standpipe district to manage water agreements on behalf of the community.
The bill’s primary sponsor is Republican State Rep. Alexander Kolodin, who talked with the residents during their demonstration. He was met with resistance from many members of the community, who criticized his bill as inviting more government interference.
Despite the disagreements between residents, Kolodin insists the two bills aren’t at odds.
“These are not competing solutions,” he stressed. “If we can get the votes for Chairwoman Griffin’s alternative, then we’re going to go with that alternative. From a conservative point of view, it’s better, it has less government.”
Both bills contain emergency clauses, meaning they would become effective immediately after being signed into law, and would also require a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House. Kolodin believes his bill offers a compromise that might be able to win more votes.
“In order for these people to get water before the summer, the bill has to pass with an emergency clause,” he explained. “It may be that we need to do the standpipe district alternative in my bill in order to get the necessary votes.”
While it seems most residents do have a preference between the two bills, many are also willing to accept whatever solution gets them water the fastest.
“I think the best way forward is an agreement by the State Legislature on a bill that is going to get us water,” said Jessica Mehlman. “I understand that the people in our community are divided, but at the end of the day we need water, and we need water quickly.”