Scottsdale, Arizona, cuts off water to suburb in response to Colorado River drought

It’s been over two weeks since the water supply was cut off from an unincorporated community outside of Scottsdale. However, the drought is a problem two-decades in the making.

Residents in a community in the foothills of Scottsdale, Arizona, say they are on the verge of running out of their water supply after the city stopped selling water to the unincorporated suburb due to the ongoing drought. 

Rio Verde Foothills includes normally lush golf courses, tennis courts, a clubhouse and hiking trails. Home prices start around $500,000 and run up to $2 million, according to recent Zillow listings. 

Until recently, the unincorporated community with about 1,000 residents bought its water from Scottsdale. However, with the recent drought conditions, Scottsdale city officials announced in late December it would stop selling water to Maricopa County residents in the Rio Verde Foothills.


"Maricopa County officials and county residents living in the Rio Verde Foothills area were informed of this eventuality in 2015/16, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022," a Dec. 29 Scottsdale city memo read. 

It’s been over two weeks since the water supply was cut off on Jan. 1.

The Arizona Republic newspaper reports Rio Verde Foothills residents have sued the city of Scottsdale.

While the Southwest monsoon season and rounds of atmospheric river rains slamming into California have offered small improvements to the overall western drought, the problem is that Arizona gets about 36% of its water supply from the Colorado River. The recent rain cannot fix a problem decades in the making.  

According to Arizona State University's Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute, for the past 20 years, water levels in Lake Mead, a large Colorado River reservoir, have been dropping amid drought conditions. 

The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people across seven states, including Arizona, according to NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System.


States are cutting water supplies amid a plan to mitigate the risk of Lake Mead's critically low water levels. Arizona's Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties receive water through Central Arizona Project will see the biggest cuts, according to ASU's Kyl Center for Water Policy.

On Jan. 1, the Colorado River Tier 2 mandatory water cuts went into effect, cutting Arizona's supply from the Colorado River by 21%. This year marks the second year of water cuts for Arizona. 

In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Katie Hobbs said Arizona's decades-long drought is the "challenge of our time." In the same address, she revealed a previously sealed Arizona Department of Water Resources report showing parts of Phoenix’s West Valley is 15% short of the water it needs for the next 100 years.

"This report unequivocally shows that we have to act now, or this will only be the first new area that faces this kind of shortage," Hobbs said.

As of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report on Jan. 12, most of southwestern and northern Arizona is under abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, an overall improvement from last year, during which 57% of the state was under drought.

There has been some rain in the Phoenix metro area this week, thanks to light showers producing about a quarter inch of rainfall in some areas. 

In the meantime, residents of Rio Verde Foothills are looking for alternative water sources but say the situation is becoming dire.