Arizona suburb cut off from water during drought sues Scottsdale

EXCLUSIVE: Residents in drought-hit Arizona town skip showers and use rainwater to flush toilets after supply was cut off – while neighboring luxury $60,000-a-year golf course keeps its sprinklers on

  • Over 500 families in the sleepy suburb of Rio Verde Foothills have just days before their water tanks run dry 
  • Neighboring city Scottsdale said it cut off the town’s water to conserve supply for its own residents – but next door golf course remains lush and green
  • Home owners in the suburb are now suing Scottsdale – who they say are unwilling to work to a solution – to reinstate their water supply

Residents in a drought-stricken Arizona town are suing to have their cut-off water supply reinstated after being forced to skip showers and use rainwater to flush their toilets – while a neighboring members-only golf course keeps its sprinklers on.

Rio Verde Foothills was cut off from neighboring Scottsdale’s water supply on January 1, and the water tanks of more than 500 families in the quiet suburb will run dry within days.

Their last hope is a lawsuit filed last week that aims to reinstate supply from Scottsdale until a more long-term decision is made. Residents say there is no plan B. 

Meanwhile, the celeb hot-spot Scottsdale National Golf Club owned by Godaddy billionaire Bob Parsons – where membership costs up to $60,000-a-year, and which requires a $300,000 entrance fee to join – is still sitting lush and green in the drought-stricken state. 

Residents in drought-hit Arizona town skip showers and use rainwater to flush toilets – while neighboring luxury $60,000-a-year golf course keeps its sprinklers on

Residents of the drought-stricken Arizona town have been forced to skip showers and use rainwater to flush their toilets. The nearby golf course owned by Godaddy billionaire Bob Parsons, however, remains green and lush 

The town was cut off from neighboring Scottsdale’s water supply on January 1. Officials claim the decision to cut off the water was to mitigate drought conditions in the region

The water tanks of more than 500 families in the quiet suburb will run dry within days as their supply has been cut off and the Colorado River continues to dry up

‘People are panicked and terrified about their future and the loss of their homes,’ Christy Jackman, one of the community members rallying against Scottsdale’s decisions, told DailyMail.com

Residents of the small suburb of Rio Verde Foothills have been left without running water since the nearby city of Scottsdale cut off their supply. Scottsdale has blamed the ongoing drought for its decision to shut off tap water for its neighbors. The city says it can no longer afford to sell water to its neighbors and must concentrate instead on conserving water for its own residences

Pictured here is local resident Christy Jackman’s parched ranch. The state is facing a drought of historic proportions, with the Colorado River – from which Arizona receives 36% of its water supply – rapidly drying up in places

Yet, only one mile away sits affluent golf course Scottsdale National Golf Club, which brands itself as a ‘members only oasis’. The course has been able to maintain its lush green lawns throughout the drought, hosting Joe Jonas’s lavish 30th birthday party just a few months ago

 Many who own homes in Rio Verde Foothills are now turning to extreme measures to preserve the little water they have – joining local gyms to shower, eating exclusively off of paper plates, and even using rainwater that collects in empty swimming pools to flush their toilets

‘People are panicked and terrified about their future and the loss of their homes,’ Christy Jackman, one of the community members rallying against Scottsdale’s decisions, told DailyMail.com.

‘These are problems in the USA that we should not be faced with when we sit next to an incredibly rich community with the best water system in the state.’  

Since water supply to Rio Verde Foothills was cut on the first day of the new year, home owners have been forced to find creative ways to limit their water usage.  

Jackman described the lengths neighbors have gone to in order to ration out their precious supply – including flushing toilets with rainwater, taking loads of laundry to the homes of friends, and even swapping crockery and cutlery for paper plates and plastic utensils. 

Untouched desert lots with water rights are currently selling upwards of 1.3 million dollars for 5 acres within the Scottsdale boundary

A brand new for sale property sits empty in the unincorporated area of Rio Verde, AZ. Under Maricopa county law builders do not have to disclose any water rights information when selling on the open market

Local resident and ranch owner Christy Jackman is lucky enough to possess a well on her property. She continues to campaign for a solution to the town’s water supply because of the ‘unacceptable’ conditions her neighbors are living through, however

Jackman says families in the area without wells used to rely on hauling trucks to refill their underground tanks around every three weeks. Trucking companies are now unable to refill from Scottsdale stations, making what was once a 15 minute round-trip into a 3 hour slog. The number of trips they are now able to make has decreased by 75% as a result

 Now 19 days into the water supply cut-off, families’ supply tanks are dwindling – many at risk of drying out completely within days. Without water, and therefore unable to flush toilets or wash themselves, families with children face health risks

The many ranches in the area are also facing difficult decisions – forced not just to anticipate their own water needs and usage, but also those of the animals they breed and rely on financially

Officials claim Scottsdale’s decision to cut off Rio Verde Foothills was an extreme environmental measure to mitigate drought conditions in the region, as the Colorado River continues to dry up. The aftermath, however, has become bitterly political. 

Scottsdale says that it has been warning the unincorporated neighboring area not to rely on the city’s water supply for years. Residents of Rio Verde Foothills say the city is purposely blocking their proposed solution to the crisis. 

The result is between 500 and 700 homes – roughly 1,000 people, many of whom operate businesses and send their children to school within Scottsdale city limits – left without a dependable source of water.  

The new lawsuit, filed last week, demands that services be restored to Rio Verde Foothills. The case is premised on a current statute in Arizona stating that once a municipality – in this case, Scottsdale – has established water service to an unincorporated community in the state, it may not discontinue this service. 

The legal filing asks for a temporary reinstatement of water to the suburb until the conclusion of the case, as well as suggesting a longer-term solution that has previously been blocked by Scottsdale officials – the purchase of water delivery from a Canadian water utility company called EPCOR. 

Rio Verde Foothills residents propose to pay for this import of water themselves, but the company would need Scottsdale to agree to treat the water in order to avoid an interruption of service – a deal they say Scottsdale had previously suggested itself. 

Houses are seen in the unincorporated area of Rio Verde which is disputing the city of Scottsdales threat to cut off water supply

The water issue is affecting home sales with up to 100 being on the market but nothing is selling 

 ‘Scottsdale would literally make a profit off of it,’ says Jackman. ‘We provide the water, and we pay them to process it.’

Yet, Scottsdale’s new mayor recently rejected the solution, claiming that because the town lies beyond the municipal boundaries, it is not legally obligated to continue providing water service to Rio Verde Foothills and has no obligation to work with such external companies.

The city’s continued reluctance to help the suburb is muddied by the fact that the water use from the 500 homes currently without supply would make up just 0.0001 percent of Scottsdale’s portfolio. 

‘It’s a drop in the bucket’, Jackman said. 

In fact, Jackman claims, the water usage of Scottsdale National Golf Club is 15 times that of all the water-less homes combined. 

Scottsdale National Golf Club is a favorite amongst the Jonas Brothers – and hosted youngest brother Nick Jonas’s lavish 30th birthday bash in September

His wife, actress Priyanka Chopra, was also seen carting around the lushly green course, just miles from the little suburb of Rio Verde Foothills  

The course – which ironically describes itself as a ‘members only oasis’ – is a favorite among celebrities like Joe Jonas, who hosted his 30th birthday there. 

According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Scottsdale National has expended more than twice as much water as allotted by the state since 2016, with every drop coming from the overextended Colorado River. 

Meanwhile, for Rio Verde residents like Cody Reim, a father of four young children under 10, the cost of monthly water usage is about to rise to unsustainable heights. If the family continues to consume water at the same pace, his bill will grow from $380 to $1,340. 

‘That’s a life-changing amount of money for me,’ he told Dailymail.com.

Reim’s plan is to cut off all water supply to the house once their tank reaches a critical low, in order to save water for the livestock. 

His kids, including a one year-old and two-year old, will have to drink bottled water, and go longer between bathing. 

‘It’s mind boggling to me that, if this is such a crisis at the state level, the first cut would be residential use,’ he said. 

‘What they should cut first is not essential use of water.’ 

Cody Reim says that his family is about a week away from running out of water – when they run low enough, he’s planning on cutting off supply to their house so their livestock can survive for longer. ‘They don’t deserve to suffer one minute for this,’ he told Dailymail.com

Cody’s kids, including two toddlers under three, will have to rely on bottled water for drinking water, and travel to their grandparents’ house to take baths or showers 

With hauled water rising in price threefold, as trucks have to venture farther and farther for refill stations, Cody the cost of maintaining enough water for his family and livestock is about to be unaffordable 

In response to the lawsuit by Rio Verde residents, Scottsdale has released a statement saying it remains ‘confident that it is on the right side of the law’.

‘Scottsdale has warned and advised that it is not responsible for Rio Verde for many years,’ the statement read, ‘especially given the requirements of the City’s mandated drought plan.’

Both the city and suburb will hear tomorrow about Maricopa County Superior Court’s decision on the petition. 

Jackman says if the temporary injunction is not upheld – restoring their water supply until the case is finished – residents have no other options. 

‘We’ve offered everything we can offer,’ she said.  

Before the cutoff, houses that did not have their own wells would have water delivered every few weeks by truck. 

Buried beneath their front yards, families have 5,000-gallon storage tanks, which is enough water to last an average family a month. When tanks ran low, residents called the water haulers for a refill.

The arrangement was never more solid than that, but the system was reliable enough for the homeowners. 

John Hornewer’s family business has long trucked water to families in Rio Verde Foothills who don’t have their own wells. Since Scottsdale’s decision to cut off all water, he says the business is no longer financially viable – unable to pay for the diesel required to drive 3 hour round trip journeys to new refill stations 

Arizona’s drought has led to historically low water levels in the Colorado River, which feeds Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Arizona’s water supply, amongst others

Pictured is a graphic of the long-term drought impact on Arizona, with Scottsdale identified. In response to the lack of available water, the federal government has asked the seven states that the Colorado River feeds through to reduce their water usage 2 to 4 million acre-feet, up to a third of the river’s average flow

Now those water trucks have to search elsewhere for the refills – a financially precarious situation for both those reliant on the water, and the haulers themselves. 

For years, the six trucks in John Hornewer’s family-run business would make trips to Scottsdale’s refilling station, a process that took around 15 minutes to fill the 6,000 gallon tanks.

Since January, however, he’s had to drive much farther afield to smaller refill stations that can take up to three hours to fill a tank. As a result, his weekly water loads have been reduced by 75 percent, while his petrol costs have only gone up. 

 ‘We’ve got two months, and then we’re done,’ he told the Post. The math for how to meet the suburb’s supply simply does not add up.  

The dispute over water comes amidst dire drought conditions in the region, as the Colorado River – from which Arizona takes 36 percent of its water supply – continues to dry out. 

To address the national shortage, the Biden administration has urged seven states to reduce water usage 2 to 4 million acre-feet, up to a third of the river’s average flow.   

Even the current storms in California will not save the area, which is experiencing the profound impact of a 20-year drought that has all but emptied Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US.

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