The New Battle Lines with the Rio Verde Foothills Water Crisis Emerges: the City of Scottsdale v. Maricopa County

Photo Credit: Brian Hancock

For a few moments, we thought that the Rio Verde Foothills water crisis was mostly resolved. We thought we had turned a corner, and that an agreement had been largely agreed upon. But to the detriment of the citizens of the Foothills and to the benefit of the pundits who appreciate good stories to write about, the story is clearly not over. But the battle lines have clearly shifted and hardened recently.

Now we fully and publicly understand: it is the city of Scottsdale versus Maricopa County, and more specifically, Supervisor Thomas Galvin.

As recent developments demonstrate, Scottsdale city leadership is now fully coalesced behind their plan to restore and facilitate water delivery to the Rio Verde Foothills as demonstrated by a recent unanimous vote in favor of their plan.

But the vote doesn’t tell the entire story; the intrigue is in the details. For instance, Councilmember Solange Whitehead said in an email to supporters, “I believe (Thomas Galvin’s) rejection of the IGA fails his constituents on both sides of the (Scottsdale/Rio Verde Foothills) border and allows unregulated development to dig this water crisis deeper”.

Furthermore, new councilmember Barry Graham is planting his own flag and demonstrating gravitas; in an email to the Executive Director of Scottsdale Water, Graham says “Fair to say this is difficult because it’d be an open-ended “water blank check” from (Scottsdale) since (Rio Verde’s) growth is open-ended?” To be an established member of the council dais is one thing, but for a new member to be asking difficult but pertinent questions about the facilitation of expectations and dependency is another development, one that is worth real consideration.

Along with the open-ended nature of Maricopa County’s proposal, all parties on the Scottsdale side seem to object to a specific part of the proposal from Maricopa County, and more specifically Supervisor Thomas Galvin: the mandate that the city work with Epcor, a third party water delivery vendor. Indeed, it does seem as though it is overreach (and has at least an appearance of cronyism) to mandate that the city use a particular vendor if others are able to satisfy the need. Considering that the work still needs to be done with the city, it is not a stretch to see a vendor mandate as being overly burdensome.

Regardless of the rationale, one thing seems clear: the city is putting on a united front. Mayor Ortega backing away from attempting to block any attempt at water facilitation was a wise move, and now he has a part of a consolidated battle against the county. As we come up towards an election year, it is in his best interest to not be on an island.