Faucets poised to run dry for hundreds of Arizona residents by year's end


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  2 weeks ago  •  9 comments

By:   Deon J. Hampton

Faucets poised to run dry for hundreds of Arizona residents by year's end
Drought means hundreds of homes in Arizona are poised to lose their water by the end of the yer.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

RIO VERDE FOOTHILLS, Ariz. — More than 500 homes in this affluent desert community that boasts mountain views, ample trees and ranches hidden in the crooks of scrubby hills will run out of water by year's end as drought tightens its grip on the West.

Residents of Rio Verde Foothills outside Scottsdale have tried for years to resolve the looming crisis to no avail as the deadline to stop their water deliveries draws closer, forcing individual homeowners to find their own sources of water for drinking, bathing, washing dishes or doing their laundry.

"It's going to be really ugly and terrible for our homeowners and landowners," said Karen Nabity, who has lived in Rio Verde Foothills forseven years. "Some of us will borrow water from a friend's well, others will have to pay a water hauler from far away.Rio Verde Foothills resident Karen Nabity.Dean J. Hampton / NBC News

As climate change makes the Western United States hotter and drier, the looming crisis in Rio Verde Foothills exemplifies how cities and states could be forced to vie for a diminishing amount of the natural resource.

The rural community of about 2,200 homes in unincorporated Maricopa County does not have its own water system, and most residents get their water from private wells on their properties. But more than 500 homeowners rely strictly on truck haulers to deliver water from a standpipe in Scottsdale. Another 200 whose wells are running dry periodically use the water haulers, as well, residents say.

But a year ago, Scottsdale notified Rio Verde homeowners that its water supply would be limited to city residents only starting Jan. 1, 2023, barring trucking companies from purchasing and exporting its water.

The notice came nearly a decade after Scottsdale first asked Rio Verde residents to search for an alternative water source, city officials said.

Scottsdale Water, the municipal utility, said the decision was one element of a larger contingency plan by the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona, to reduce its consumption. Scottsdale residents also were urged to reduce their usage as a first step toward more stringent restrictions.

The contingency plan was activated after the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees Colorado River operations, declared a "Tier 1" shortage in August 2021 for the first time. The declaration reduces the amount of water Arizona, Nevada and Mexico can get from the river, which supplies water to about 40 million people in the Western U.S. The tier goes up as river levels go down, with Tier 3 being the most severe.

Some Rio Verde Foothills residents said they don't know how such an important issue could have dragged on so long without a resolution.

"It's a priority because why wouldn't we want to solve this problem," said Jennifer Simpson, who was drawn to Rio Verde Foothills 23 years ago by its wide-open spaces.

Rio Verde Foothills resident Jennifer Simpson.Dean J. Hampton / NBC News

Maricopa County officials said they can't fix the problem because they're not water providers. Scottsdale officials said they have no other option because their first commitment is to their own residents.

In Rio Verde Foothills, a sprawling community bisected by horse ranches and dusty gravel roads, the impending cutoff is likely to translate into much higher costs to have water shipped in from locations at least 60 miles away.

Some property owners thought they had solved the problem when they banded together to try to create their own water improvement district. But the plan was dashed this year when the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted down their petition, saying the majority of residents didn't want the proposed district because it could potentially lead to some of their properties being condemned to build a new water delivery system.

Rio Verde Foothills.Deon J. Hampton / NBC News

A Canada-based water company, Epcor Utilities, filed an application in October to supply Rio Verde Foothills with water, said Nick Debus, a spokesman for the Arizona Corporation Commission, a state agency that regulates private water.

If the project were approved, he said, the utility would have to acquire land, construct a standpipe and drill a new well, which could take two to three years.

Though water supply costs vary widely, rates for Rio Verde residents would increase exponentially to $20 for 1,000 gallons of water delivered, according to the application. The average Scottsdale resident pays $1.65 for 1,000 gallons and residents of nearby Glendale pay 33 cents for the same amount, according to KPNX, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix. Collectively, Rio Verde uses 48 million gallons of water a year, according to its residents.

Thomas Loquvam, general counsel for Epcor, said the commission asked the utility to provide water for residents, who would foot the bill for the project, resulting in the higher rates. Only homes built before 2024 would receive water from the proposed district, he added.

Although unfamiliar with the details, Rio Verde Foothills resident Adam Zingg said he prefers Epcor over a water improvement district because the latter would create another layer of government.

"We need as a community to find a solution," he said. "I'm sure that if there's no access to water, we'd be up in arms."

Many Rio Verde Foothills residents say they feel abandoned.

"I'm frustrated and flabbergasted," said Simpson, the 23-year resident. "We're sitting here still waiting."


jrDiscussion - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  Buzz of the Orient    2 weeks ago

Arizona may lose its water by the end of the year, but the author lost an "a" out of a year today. 

Professor Quiet
1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    2 weeks ago

 It's only a portion of Arizona, not the entire state. Not everybody relies on the Central Arizona Project for their water.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @1.1    2 weeks ago

Okay, I should have said "Part of Arizona....", which would actually cause my comment to make more sense, if I had said "...but the author lost part of a year today."  LOL

Professor Principal
2  Ender    2 weeks ago
desert community

Stop trying to change the environment.

If you live in the desert, don't expect to have a green lawn and a swimming pool.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Ender @2    2 weeks ago

But they could have sports field turf and a sandbox. 

Professor Principal
2.2  Tessylo  replied to  Ender @2    2 weeks ago

I think it was in Vegas, not positive, it was on John Oliver, Last Week Tonight, one episode - where they were talking about serious droughts and water shortages in areas like Vegas (I think) and they were showing a developer building all these condos and how ridiculous it all was when they couldn't accommodate - were restricting water usage and idiots were building.  Makes no sense.  

Also, like Buzz mentions - there were plenty of golf courses - in these near desert or dry environments.  

Professor Principal
3  Kavika     2 weeks ago

If the seven states don't come to a solution for the water from the Colorado River the feds will do it for them. The farmers in AZ have already lost a huge share of water causing them to allow fields to go fallow. 

Greg Jones
Professor Guide
4  Greg Jones    2 weeks ago

"As climate change makes the Western United States hotter and drier......"

Yet another unsupported opinion presented as fact..

Professor Quiet
5  mocowgirl    2 weeks ago

Maybe the US government will revise the policy of selling US water rights to foreign governments and commercial interests to the detriment of individuals, but I wouldn't bet on it.

There are zero reasons why it was logical to build computer chip factories in Arizona when the enormous amount of water involved in their manufacture is considered.

And selling land and water rights to Saudi Arabia to farm alfalfa in Arizona has been extremely damaging to the area.

I am citing just a few highlights from a pretty good article.  

I don't understand why anyone in the US supports selling our farmland and water rights to foreign businesses or governments unless it is to line their own pockets.

How Arizona built Saudi Arabia's farming empire | 12news.com
Author:   Hunter Bassler
Published:   6:30 AM MST June 17, 2022
Updated:   10:04 AM MST August 18, 2022

LA PAZ, Arizona — A desert filled with dust, rock and dry vegetation is now teeming with rows of vividly green crops and roaming livestock fueled by underground water.

The situation is familiar to both residents of the state of Arizona and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A   Saudi alfalfa farm   that set up shop in   La Paz County   in 2015 acts as a living example of the similarities. Stories about the farm, however, seemingly focus on the differences.

Water experts criticize the farm for growing one of the   world's most water-intensive crops   during a megadrought using the state's limited groundwater.

These "water grab" narratives miss the full story. Arizona grew Saudi Arabia's agriculture industry into the behemoth it is today, alfalfa fields and all. The close partnership between the Grand Canyon State and the Middle East monarchy has lasted for close to a century, and now Arizonans are reaping the water-driven consequences our ancestors sowed.

How an Arizona copper miner became a Saudi royal family adviser

The seed of Saudi Arabia's farming empire came from the mind of an Arizona copper miner named Karl Twitchell in the 1910s, according to   political geographer and Tucson native Natalie Koch .

"[Twitchell] was brought to the Arabian Peninsula countries...to work for a plumbing company, where he very quickly starts to develop relationships with the elites," Koch said. "Because of the plumbing connection, the water question was always something the Gulf leaders were interested in talking to Americans about."

Koch's upcoming book, " Arid Empire: The Entangled Fates of Arizona and Arabia ," explores the dual relationship between colonization of the U.S. Southwest and diplomatic relations in the Middle East.

Twitchell essentially fell into a royal adviser role for Saudi Arabia's first king, Ibn Saud. Twitchell's focus was on being a steward of water and agriculture for the country, according to the   Karl S. Twitchell Papers collection archived at Princeton University .

He would eventually convince Saud to send him on a tour across the U.S. Southwest to survey farming practices. Twitchell then used that tour as a pitch to the U.S. government to get them to fund his agriculture projects back in the Middle East.

Arabia moves to Arizona

Four years before water woes came to a head in 2018 and the country's   government banned the domestic growth of green forage , the Saudi farm in La Paz County was set up.

Established diplomatic relations and similar climate conditions were not the only reasons Saudi Arabia saw Arizona as one of the top contenders for expansion. Arizona's notoriously cheap groundwater rights also played a large role in influencing the decision.

As a Tucson native, Koch knows how fierce water politics are in Arizona. Numerous people told her they have no hope of the state's water policies improving because every little change requires a huge fight and is usually met with gridlock.

That gridlock is incredibly convenient for large agribusinesses like Almarai.

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