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Arizona suburb sues Scottsdale for cutting off its water supply

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A saguaro-cactus lined road where new homes are being built in in Rio Verde Foothills, Arizona, on January 7, 2023.

The Washington Post | Getty Images

An Arizona suburb has filed a lawsuit against the city of Scottsdale after the city cut off the community from its municipal water supply amid extreme drought conditions and declining water levels in the Colorado River.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court, residents in the unincorporated community of Rio Verde Foothills are seeking an injunction against Scottsdale to force the city to resume water services.

The dispute comes after the federal government last year announced unprecedented water cuts in Arizona due to water shortages along the Colorado River. The Biden administration has urged seven states to reduce water usage 2 to 4 million acre-feet, up to a third of the river’s average flow, as drought conditions grow worse in the Colorado River basin.

The river’s decline has prompted the loss of three quarters of the water from the country’s largest reservoirs. Last week, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs unveiled a report showing that the desert west of Phoenix doesn’t have enough groundwater supplies to move forward plans to construct homes in the area.

Scottsdale warned Rio Verde Foothills more than a year ago that the town’s water supply would be cut off as it faced projections of a historic drought and dwindling reservoir levels in the western U.S. Scottsdale said it must focus on water conservation for its own residents and would not continue to sell water to the roughly 500 homes in┬áRio Verde Foothills.

Earlier this month, hundreds of homes outside of Scottsdale could no longer access water from the city, leaving residents with no reliable source of water.

Rio Verde Foothills residents said Scottsdale is in a position to accept delivery of water from EPCOR, a water utility company, and treat the water for domestic use at EPCOR’s expense so that residents have water during the 24-to-36-month time period that the company needs to get the necessary approval to do so, according to the lawsuit.

However, Scottsdale has said it would not work with any external companies to provide Rio Verde Foothills residents with water, arguing that it’s not legally obligated to continue providing water service to Rio Verde Foothills since the town lies beyond Scottsdale’s municipal boundaries.

Scottsdale, in a statement issued on Monday, said that Rio Verde Foothills is a separate community governed by Maricopa County and the city’s action does not preclude Rio Verde Foothills residents from purchasing water from other sources.

“Scottsdale has warned and advised that it is not responsible for Rio Verde for many years, especially given the requirements of the City’s mandated drought plan,” the statement read. “The city remains firm in that position, and confident it is on the right side of the law.”

Rising Risks: Building homes in Arizona, where water is growing scarce



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