Arizona: Rio Verde Foothills, “the first domino to fall” in the fight for water

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Arizona: Rio Verde Foothills, “the first domino to fall” in the fight for water

As of January 1, 500 residents of Rio Verde Foothills, Arizona have lost access to Scottsdale city water.

Horses at Miller Ranch in Rio Verde Foothills consume 4000 liters of water per day.

Whiskey is for drinking, but water is for fighting, goes a famous saying in Arizona. It will never have rung so true.

On January 1, the City of Scottsdale decided to turn off the taps to the residents of Rio Verde Foothills because they are not in its jurisdiction. Since then, it's been the battle for water.

Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega defends himself by saying the city needs to cut consumption by at least 5% because of the drought. The 2,000 residents of Rio Verde Foothills are not tied to any municipal government. Five hundred of them depend on Scottsdale, while the others can still get their water from their wells.

Lothar Rowe, owner of Miller Ranch in Rio Verde Foothills

Lothar Rowe bought Miller Ranch about 15 years ago, but the well is there has since dried up. The ranch is home to around 40 horses that consume 4000 liters of water per day.

Today, the ranch relies on area water deliverers to fill its two reservoirs. Since transporters no longer have access to Scottsdale, the price of water has gone from 3 cents for almost 4 liters to 11 cents. The price of water has thus tripled.

“I could buy some San Pellegrino from the horses, it would cost less!” »

— Lothar Rowe, owner of Ranch Miller

John Hornewer is one of the main water deliverers for the residents of Rio Verde Foothills.

John Hornewer is one of the most important water deliverers in the area. It has five tank trucks, two of which have a capacity of 22,000 liters each.

Since he no longer has access to water from Scottsdale, he has to go to the Apache Junction station, which is further away. The process is also longer: with 25 cents, he fills his tank truck. He can't serve as many customers as before: today he supplies water to two or three customers a day.

“This drought is no joke. I used to fill up in Scottsdale and it took me about an hour. Now the whole process takes me three or four hours.

—John Hornewer, Water Delivery Man

Karen Nabity has lived with her husband in Rio Verde Foothills since 2016, in a home she designed herself. The couple consumes 51 liters of water per day, while the average for a couple is 300 liters. Ms. Nabity collects rainwater to rinse dishes and toilets.

Karen Nabity is a resident of Rio Verde Foothills , affected by water shortage.

“We take a shower once every four days and use a quarter cup of water to brush our teeth and wash our hands.

—Rio Verde Foothills resident Karen Nabity

His neighbors have decided to join a gym just to be able to shower. The most paradoxical thing is that the construction of new houses is going well in the region, even if there is no more water. The place is coveted by young retirees seduced by the desert. A real estate agent, who would not be interviewed, clarified that the new homes all have wells.

“Our community is the first domino to fall and truly feel the ramifications of drought. Water is a precious resource, not an unlimited good.

—John Hornewer, Water Delivery Man

The Scottsdale area is full of green golf courses that are the pride of the city and where the water flows with impunity.

One ​​of Scottsdale, Arizona's proudest golf courses.

And yet, the entire American Southwest is experiencing the worst drought in its history. It is raining less and less. The Colorado River has 20% less water than 20 years ago. Forty million people in seven states, including Arizona, depend on this river.

The Canadian company Epcor is trying to obtain a permit to transport water to residents of Rio Verde Foothills. The infrastructure will need to be installed first, a process that will take two to three years.

Epcor is one of the largest regulated water providers in the region. This blue gold does not come from Canada, but from different sources, including the Colorado River.

A Canadian company Epcor water station north of Phoenix, Arizona

Scottsdale is now in talks with Maricopa County to purchase additional water from a third party in order to deliver it, once treated, to the residents of Rio Verde Foothills. The City would be reimbursed by the county.

There is also talk of a moratorium on all new construction in the area. A meeting is scheduled for February 21.

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