Judges to the Arizona Municipality: Water doesn’t have to flow out of Scottsdale

Water from the Colorado River, diverted by the Central Arizona Project, fills an irrigation canal in Maricopa, Arizona, August 18, 2022. A Maricopa County, Arizona, judge denied residents emergency relief for their water source cut off in Scottsdale, Arizona due to drought shutting it down since Jan. 1. (Matt York, Associated Press)

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SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — A Maricopa County, Arizona, judge denied residents emergency aid for their Scottsdale water source, which had been cut off since Jan. 1 due to drought conditions and despite repeated warnings from the city to find an alternative water source.

The emergency stay lawsuit was filed by some residents of the nearby unincorporated community of Rio Verde Foothills, who saw their water supplies dry up earlier in the year due to actions by the city of Scottsdale, whose leaders said they had repeatedly warned the community that the continued deliveries due to the drought was unsustainable.

What happened: Several hundred residents of the 1,000-member community are affected by the suspended water supplies.

In December, the city warned residents about the pending lawsuit because Arizona’s own water supply from the Colorado River had decreased by 21% due to the basin-wide drought.

“This means the water transporters that Rio Verde relied on will have to find another source of water to transport. They have found other water sources and are still offering to transport water to supply homes in Rio Verde,” the city said in a memo.

The shutdown only affects those receiving water from tankers, not households that rely on wells. The tanker deliveries mean truckers keep driving to find water, driving prices up — sometimes tripled — and prompting residents to resort to paper plates, showering less and filling toilets with rainwater.

The lawsuit: In the lawsuit, affected residents allege that Scottsdale’s water service is considered a utility, according to AZFamily, a media outlet. However, the judge said residents could not prove irreparable damage, adding that the community in the Rio Verde foothills has yet to prove they have no access to water at all. Additional arguments against Scottsdale have yet to be discussed as the litigation proceeds, the court added.

An Arizona lawmaker recently met with affected residents and is hoping a fix can be found, according to KTAR News.

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Amy Joi O’Donoghue

Amy Joi O’Donoghue is a reporter for the Utah InDepth team at Deseret News and has decades of land and environmental experience.

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