Guest Editorial: City vs County in Rio Verde Foothills Water

Opinion Piece by Alex McLaren

I have been concerned about this situation for some time now. I am not exactly sure why because I live in south Scottsdale, miles from the Rio Foothills area. My concern is that as good neighbors Scottsdale should help as best, we can, within the law and also as stewards of our overall water resources. I am also concerned that the issue has become so politicized and handled so badly.

I have spoken on a few occasions to the City Council urging a solution to the problem.

This past Tuesday (March 7th) I asked the Council why they would have approved the Agreement with the County on February 21st. I have read in the press, (Scottsdale Progress Sunday March 5th) that a letter dated February 21st from Supervisor Galvin to the City expressed major concerns with the deal points in the agreement that the city was going to consider (and later approved) that evening. At the meeting I congratulated the city on having appeared to have initiated a workable temporary solution. Many Rio Verde Foothills residents also praised the city. On March 1st the County resoundingly rejected the agreement.

I worked for the city for 21 years (1985 to 2007) and was involved in many Intergovernmental Agreements and we would never ask the Council to approve an agreement if both parties were not satisfied with all the deal points. Why would the Council approve an agreement that was not supported by the County? And why would the County be so adamant, according to news reports, in rejecting the city agreement?

I also brought up to the Council an article in AZ Central published on March 3rd by Sasha Hupka that gives details of city emails dating back to October 2022. It was reported that the emails show that Scottsdale staff were interested in pursuing an interim solution with EPCOR. The article states that Brian Biesemeyer (Water Resources Director) emailed the Council, in October 2022, that they we’re working with EPCOR on a solution to provide water on an interim basis. It was also reported that the reason for the city not moving forward was a concern about continued growth in the area. The article also contained information from an EPCOR spokesperson that confirmed the company had discussed a potential interim solution last fall and that EPCOR has the water resources and could help.

In any agreement that the Council approves regarding the delivery of water it could be stipulated that only a certain amount of water be delivered. That concept was in the agreement that Council approved on February 21st. The city had been providing about 121 Acre Feet per year in the years preceding the cut off. Any future agreement could set limits on how much water is delivered to the RVF area.

The long-term solution is through the Arizona Corporation Commission. EPCOR is in the process of going through the ACC to provide water service to the area. This could take some time to complete.

The short-term solution, in my opinion, should be for the city to supply the limited amount of water supplied prior to the cut off. The amount of water involved is not significant. The most practical solution is to work with EPCOR to achieve this. If working only with only one water company presents procurement issues then other water companies should be allowed to participate in the process.

I have also read that the city is reluctant to enter into Intergovernmental Agreements with non-governmental agencies. This is a red herring. The city has agreements with many utility companies. Water companies are by definition utility companies. Also, the issue of the city’s Drought Contingency Plan has been cited by some as an obstacle. I have reviewed the DCP and nothing precludes the city acquiring additional water resources and delivering to others. The city was proposing to do just that in the botched agreement with the County.

Summer is approaching and the residents of RVF will become increasingly desperate. It is time for the City and County to get together and craft a workable solution that is agreeable to all parties and only present the agreement to their governing bodies when all the deal points are settled.