Speed Reads

'Is it just a campground now?'

Arizona suburb struggling after Scottsdale cut off water supply amid Western drought

The city of Scottsdale, Arizona, cut off its municipal water from the unincorporated community of Rio Verde Foothills on Jan. 1, after more than a year of warning. Scottsdale gets the majority of its water from the Colorado River, and with Arizona's allotment of river water cut amid a long drought in the U.S. West, "the city cannot be responsible for the water needs of a separate community especially given its unlimited and unregulated growth," Scottsdale's city manager's office wrote in December.

Rio Verde Foothills doesn't have a sewage system or water mains. The houses in the subdivision that don't have wells — or about 500 to 700 homes — relied on water trucked in from a municipal tap on the edge of Scottsdale. They stored the water in tanks on their property. Now, as the water trucks have to drive further to find water supplies, the price of water has tripled.

"The result is a disorienting and frightening lack of certainty about how residents will find enough water as their tanks run down in coming weeks," The Washington Post reports. Rio Verde Foothills' two main options are creating their own water district and paying the Canadian private utility Epcor to supply water, "but political disputes have so far foiled both approaches." Some residents sued Scottsdale last week to try and force it to turn back on the tap. 

Meanwhile, residents are showering less, flushing sparingly, taking their laundry to Scottsdale, and using paper plates to cut back on dishes to wash. "Is it just a campground now?" homeowner Joe McCue asked The New York Times. Tony Johnson noted pointedly that their comment is "surrounded by plush golf courses, one of the largest fountains in the world" in nearby Fountain Hills. 

"This is a real hard slap in the face to everybody," John Hornewer, whose tankers have has been hauling water to Rio Verde Foothills for more than 20 years, told the Post. "It's not sustainable. We're not going to make it through a summer like this."

"Water experts say Rio Verde Foothills' situation is unusually dire, but it offers a glimpse of the bitter fights and hard choices facing 40 million people across the West who rely on the Colorado River," the Times reports. Read more about the plight of Rio Verde Hills at The Washington Post and The New York Times.