By Councilwoman Solange Whitehead
Last Friday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted down the intergovernmental agreement to deliver water to the unincorporated residents in Rio Verde Foothills. This is the second time in 9 months that the supervisors have voted against a water solution for these residents. I am deeply disappointed.
In Scottsdale, we know that water management prevents water wars and policies must be free of politics. For these reasons, the City Council directed the City Manager and attorneys to develop an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with counterparts at Maricopa County. These negotiations also involved legislators and staff and the Attorney General’s office.
Scottsdale’s involvement was to assist Maricopa County in securing a regulated water supply for its residents in Rio Verde Foothills (RVF). Something these residents have never had and is increasingly important as wells run dry in the area. Within a week of the draft IGA’s completion, the Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved it allowing flexibility to best serve all parties. Council inboxes and City Hall were filled with RVF residents supporting the plan.
Now RVF residents are once again without hope. The County rejected the IGA with a demand that the City of Scottsdale enter into a contract with EPCOR, a private company, to provide water for Rio Verde Foothills residents. This places legal responsibility and liability for RVF water service on Scottsdale and its taxpayers. Scottsdale is a city government, not a utility. Intergovernmental agreements, by definition, are between governments. IGAs are the mechanism by which one municipality can share resources with residents from another municipality. The draft IGA between Maricopa County and Scottsdale would have provided treated water to RVF residents, upheld Scottsdale’s drought management plan, and met the City’s obligations to its residents. The framework is what matters. Not the source of the water.
In its resolution, the Board of Supervisors explicitly requires EPCOR-sourced water. What is unclear to me is why. At a recent AZ Corporation Commission meeting, RVF residents came out in large numbers against a proposed ‘EPCOR solution’. Also worth noting, EPCOR delivers water to Fountain Hills and Rio Verde residents today and Scottsdale is not involved. The County also opposed Scottsdale’s proposed building moratorium in RVF. Ultimately, this would be a Maricopa County decision but it seems like common sense until a permanent water supply is in place.
Had the Board of Supervisors approved the IGA, water could have flowed to existing residents quickly. Scottsdale is negotiating water allotment increases from existing sources. No new contracts to bid, no new infrastructure. The 3-year time commitment gives the County and residents time to establish a permanent water source. While the water costs are increasing everywhere, cities charges are based on actual cost of service. The Scottsdale-Maricopa County IGA was and remains a very good solution for these residents.
Both Rio Verde Foothills and Scottsdale residents are represented by Maricopa County Supervisor Tom Galvin. I believe he should reconsider the IGA in order to best serve his constituents on both sides of the border.