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Guest Commentary

Schwartz: EPCOR water solution best for Rio Verde Foothills, Scottsdale


Not one drop of Scottsdale’s water nor one cent of Scottsdale’s budget is needed to help the residents of Rio Verde Foothills however a solution to provide them water still alludes us.

As a Scottsdale resident, I have been watching this issue closely and need to respond to the recent opinion (March 8) from Solange Whitehead, Scottsdale City Councilwoman, on Maricopa County’s reaction to Scottsdale’s proposal to provide water to Rio Verde Foothills. She shares that she is “deeply disappointed.” So am I.

In her opinion, she says that “City Council directed (staff). . . to develop an intergovernmental agreement with . . . Maricopa County”. While the city and the county had discussions, none of them included negotiations of the terms of the proposal. Scottsdale negotiated with themselves and presented the proposal for the county to accept or reject.

The county initiated conversations with Scottsdale but the city was unwilling to disclose where they were getting the water. Given that Mayor Ortega had cited two sources, who later denied they were a source, the uncertain of the water source was of great concern to the county. As a result of this uncertainty, the county passed a resolution in support of the alternative, short-term EPCOR proposal.

I agree the EPCOR solution has several advantages. The most striking advantage is that EPCOR has an assured water source and the Scottsdale proposal does not. The Scottsdale proposal requires Scottsdale to find additional water and pay for it with taxpayer dollars. If Scottsdale has access to additional water supplies, they should reserve those for our future needs and not supply it to folks outside the city.

EPCOR proposes to provide water that would not otherwise be available to Scottsdale. In addition, EPCOR has already agreed to be the long term solution for the Rio Verde Foothills, having already filed an application with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Unbridled wildcat subdivisions in the county have become part of the focus of this water conversation. Many of us, including people at the county, share these concerns, however, the county is subject to state law that governs water and is legally obligated to issue permits when all conditions are met. The solution to the issue of wildcat subdivisions is needed from the state.

In the meantime, we must remember that many of Rio Verde Foothills residents have been there for 20-30 years and they still need water. The EPCOR solution does not provide water for future development so it should have a dampening effect on construction while we work on a better solution at the state legislature.

So where do we go from here?

EPCOR has offered to provide water to Scottsdale and pay Scottsdale to treat the water, transport the water through Scottsdale’s system to Scottsdale’s existing standpipe and use Scottsdale’s standpipe to deliver the water-to-water haulers. EPCOR would pay a pro-rata share of Scottsdale’s cost of service. In short, EPCOR provides the water and Scottsdale gets paid for use of their infrastructure giving EPCOR time to build their own infrastructure.

The EPCOR proposal is the best deal for Scottsdale and Rio Verde Foothills. It can and should be implemented immediately.

To solve problems, it takes a willingness to collaborate with the parties involved. I hope Scottsdale’s City Council will come back to the table and negotiate in good faith to help these people get the water they need.