SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CN) — Politicians and other state officials say they’re working diligently toward both short- and long-term solutions for the Rio Verde Foothills, which entered its second month without a reliable water source on Wednesday.
But the community can’t wait forever.
“As soon as we hit 90 degrees, we’re screwed,” said Christy Jackman, a 13-year Rio Verde Foothills resident. “That’s when it’s gonna really, really be bad. You have to keep drinking water. Your horses have to keep drinking water.
“We will not be able to conserve the way we do now, and we will run out.”
Before Jan. 1, the more than 1,000 people living in the unincorporated area north of Scottsdale received water for over 30 years from water haulers from the city. But Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega followed through on a November warning, cutting the community off to prioritize city residents as part of Scottsdale’s drought management plan.
“It’s scary,” Jackman said after a Jan. 29 evening town hall meant to discuss potential solutions. “There’s already people not doing laundry unless they have a friend in Scottsdale. There’s already people that literally are flushing toilets from water they’ve collected from the rain. There are people that aren’t using toilets, having to pee outside. There are people that joined a health club so they can shower in town. There are people whose kids get one bath a week.”
Because water delivery trucks now have to travel outside even farther to get water, Jackman said the community receives about 25% of the water it did before.
She said she knows one woman who used only 600 gallons of water in January. For reference, the United States Geological Survey estimates the average person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day, or about 2,700 per month.
She and other Rio Verde Foothills residents sued Scottsdale in Maricopa County Superior Court last month, claiming Ortega’s decision violated state law and asking a judge to issue a temporary stay, which would force Scottsdale to continue providing water to the roughly 500 homes. The judge denied the stay, finding that the plaintiffs “have not provided evidence of irreparable harm.”
“The plaintiffs have not shown that they are unable to access water at all,” wrote Superior Court Judge Joan M. Sinclair in her Jan. 20 ruling. “They just cannot access it from the Scottsdale standpipe at this time.”
Residents are now banding together to help one another as they desperately await a solution.
Jackman said she keeps a list of people with reliable wells and private water trailers, asking people to come to her if they or their loved ones need help.
“We can’t fill you up, but we can give you what you need,” she told the nearly 200 people gathered at the Reigning Grace Ranch. Horses whinnied and birds chirped behind her as she spoke to the frustrated crowd. “Please do not go without water.”
Dozens approached her after the two-hour town hall to thank her for her work.
“This is my life now,” she said. “This is all I’ve done for two years.”
Plans in place, but it’s a waiting game
Anticipating Rio Verde Foothills losing Scottsdale water access, the private water company EPCOR applied for a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Arizona Corporation Commission to build a new standpipe that would provide water directly to the Foothills. The five commissioners approved EPCOR’s request to waive certain requirements of the application “given the unusual circumstances surrounding water service to the residents.”
But the process has a few more steps. There are five separate hearings set from April 10 to April 19. After those hearings, it may take until June for the commissioners to issue a ruling.