May 22, 2023 - Climate

Hobbs vetoes bill to restore Rio Verde Foothills water

A sign warning buyers of the water situation is displayed across from a property for sale in Rio Verde Foothills on Feb. 24. Photo: Frederic J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a bill Monday that would have required Scottsdale to restore water to Rio Verde Foothills.

Why it matters: About 500 Rio Verde Foothills residents have been without reliable access to water since January.

Catch up quick: Rio Verde Foothills is in unincorporated Maricopa County, which allowed home development over the past several decades without an assured water supply.

  • Many residences in the community have private wells; but about a quarter of residents relied on hauled water from Scottsdale, until the end of last year when the city cut off access to people living outside city limits.
  • Scottsdale said it was a necessary step in drought management to ensure long-term water availability for its residents.

Driving the news: HB 2441 would have required Scottsdale to continue water service on an emergency basis for three years — the anticipated time it will take for Rio Verde Foothills to set a long-term solution with a private water company.

  • In her veto letter, Hobbs said the bill would not provide prompt relief because it was passed without an emergency clause, which would allow it to take effect immediately.
  • She also said the legislation didn't address the underlying issues that allowed Rio Verde Foothills to develop without an assured water supply.

What's next: Hobbs urged legislative leadership to instead take action on HB 2561, which would create a new governmental body, dubbed a "standpipe district," that would negotiate a water service agreement between Scottsdale and Rio Verde Foothills. It would also clarify rules on "lot splitting" in unincorporated areas.

  • The bill passed the House, but is awaiting a vote in the Senate. The Legislature is on break until June 12.
  • "I urge you not to wait until June 12; take action now and vote on HB 2561 immediately," Hobbs wrote to lawmakers.

The intrigue: Scottsdale opposed both bills.


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