AZ Corporation Commission to consider long-term Rio Verde water fix

By Wayne Schutsky
Published: Monday, November 27, 2023 - 2:36pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2023 - 8:56am

The Arizona Corporation Commission will consider green lighting a long-term solution Wednesday for residents of the unincorporated Rio Verde Foothills community who lost access to their water supply earlier this year.

After the city of Scottsdale cut Rio Verde residents off from a city-owned standpipe in January, state legislators passed a law that temporarily restored water through an agreement that ends in 2025

At the same time, private utility EPCOR has been in discussions to provide long term water service to the area, but the utility first needs approval from the Corporation Commission.

According to Corporation Commission filings, EPCOR has considered four options, including a plan to spend around $1 million to use Scottsdale’s existing standpipe and other infrastructure to deliver Epcor water to users. It could also build its own standpipe and connect that into Scottsdale’s system, which the utility estimated would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

A sign advertising land for sale in Rio Verde Foothills
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
A sign advertising land for sale in Rio Verde Foothills, and unincorporated area in Maricopa County northwest of Scottsdale, in September 2023.

However, EPCOR told the commission that Scottsdale is unlikely to agree to participate in those proposals.

EPCOR has also considered more expensive plans that would not require Scottsdale’s buy-in, including using its own existing systems or constructing new infrastructure, which could cost anywhere from $6 million to $12 million or more to build. 

Administrative Law Judge Charles Hains, who heard testimony from stakeholders in April, filed a proposed order with the Corporation Commission on Nov. 14 that included several suggested parameters for EPCOR’s potential new water service to Rio Verde customers, though it doesn’t state which of the four plans EPCOR will use to deliver water to Rio Verde residents. 

Those parameters include a proposed $24,000 “hook-up fee” for Rio Verde Foothills customers to finance construction of needed infrastructure. EPCOR did not ask for a hook-up fee in its application, but Hains wrote that the fee would be in-line with a Commission policy that “growth pay for growth.”

But several stakeholders argued against a hook-up fee. 

Resident Rochelle Reim said the fee would create a severe financial strain for customers, who already pay water haulers to deliver water from the standpipe to their homes, according to filings with the commission.

Hains’ proposed order would also put time constraints on when customers can apply for EPCOR’s service. If approved by the Commission, the order would give potential customers with an occupied home 30 days from the effective date of the decision to enroll with EPCOR. Property owners without a home can request enrollment through June 1, 2024, under the arraignment, but EPCOR will only be allowed to accept 150 of those requests. 

EPCOR asked the commission to limit all applications to customers with homes built as of Jan. 1, 2024, to address concerns about how increased customer numbers would drain the available water supply.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to correct when the Arizona Corporation Commission vote will take place.

Politics Water