Rio Verde Foothills gains access to water; work on long-term solution ahead
Oct 11, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: Oct 13, 2023, 10:47 am
PHOENIX — After years of uncertainty and months of anticipation, the rural community of Rio Verde Foothills finally got its water Monday.
The community had relied on Scottsdale for years as the source of their hauled water. Drought conditions caused Scottsdale to re-evaluate that agreement. When Rio Verde Foothills didn’t have a solution in place in January, they found themselves cut off.
Since Jan. 1, residents have had to get their water hauled in from private companies, for a high cost. It’s meant water-saving measures for many: limiting flushes, cutting down on laundry, and collecting rainwater.
Now an interim solution that’s been in the works for months, since Gov. Katie Hobbs signed a bill in June creating what’s called a “standpipe district,” is in place.
Meredith DeAngelis, a Rio Verde Foothills resident and Board Chair for the district, said it was a group effort.
“The city of Scottsdale, because we’re providing our own water into their system, to continue to use their infrastructure in the short term,” she explained. “[Private utility company] EPCOR was able to get us the water, Scottsdale will treat and transfer, so now commercial hauling trucks are going back to the existing standpipe we’ve used in the past.”
The standpipe district is made up of residents without any political experience. It played a big role in making this collaboration a possibility.
“We had to take our oath of office, we had to get trained… there’s a lot we had to learn just to be a functioning board,” DeAngelis said. “We also had to set up agreements for membership to the district, with the commercial haulers, and the self-haulers. There was a lot of legal work.”
A temporary solution
This current agreement will continue through 2025. After that, Rio Verde Foothills will need a permanent water solution.
“EPCOR is working on that long-term solution with the Arizona Corporation Commission to get us off of using Scottsdale’s infrastructure and having our own,” DeAngelis, explained, “but that is still pending.”
Now, DeAngelis’ priority is working to support that long-term solution.
“A few of us on the board have a day or two to catch our breath, but now we need to start researching and figuring out what’s going on with the long-term, how do we make sure we’re hitting the right milestones,” she said. “We have to continue having community meetings informing everyone of what’s going on so they’re aware, and just making sure everyone is informed of the situation.”
In the meantime, though, DeAngelis is enjoying the newly reliable water she and her family have access to.
“It really seemed like this day was never going to come,” she said. “It still seems to be good to be true almost, like ‘it’s on, right?’ It feels really good.”