More questions surround Rio Verde water proposal

About 100 people showed up Nov. 10 for Dynamite Water owner Damon Bruns’ presentation of his plan to help Rio Verde Foothills homeowners, but the press was excluded. (David Minton/Progress Staff Photographer)

Amid conflicting statements about Dynamite Water’s 100% guarantee to provide hauled water to Rio Verde Foothills, company owner Damon Bruns declined to let the press cover his presentation to affected homeowners.

Bruns would not allow the press in the meeting Nov. 10 for his presentation on how he can help some 700 homeowners who will lose their hauled water in January when Scottsdale turns off its spigot.

According to a person who attended the meeting, Bruns told the crowd of about 100 people that he felt the press would report the meeting inaccurately.

Questions surround Bruns’ claims of cooperation by the City of Scottsdale and the tribe that he said will provide the water.

Bruns has sent out a press release and marketing materials that state he has a 100% guaranteed water source from which he can haul water to the community northeast of the Scottsdale after the city stops allowing people to take water from its stand pipe.

Bruns claims he has a deal with the San Carlos Indian Tribe to buy 65 million gallons of water, enough to service the Rio Verde Foothills community for a year.

However, a spokesman for the tribe reportedly said during Bruns’ meeting that the deal is not yet set in stone and that tribal residents are still discussing it.

The tribe was scheduled to hold a public meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the issue but a tribal spokesman did not return calls for comment.

Bruns said after his meeting that tribal session was “just procedure” and that the deal is good.

His plan also relies on the City of Scottsdale agreeing to treat the water he buys from the tribe and allowing his sue of city’s standpipe.

City spokeswoman Valerie Schneider said Scottsdale has no plans to work with Bruns on either of those issues.

“He’s just one man and one unregulated company,” Schneider told the Progress. “This would create a monopoly. Scottsdale cannot make a deal with this type of situation. There needs to be oversight and regulation – something we’ve been saying since the beginning.”

Bruns, who told the Progress the city has agreed to allow him to use its stand pipe, says he’s not been in contact with the city since September so he does not know what about the city’s stance.

“I’m just trying to come up with a solution for the community,” he said.

Bruns said he’s not opposed to talking with the other two water haulers in the area about letting them use his water.

“I’m not trying to create a monopoly,” he said.

Karen Nabbity, a Rio Verde Foothills home owner, questioned a Dynamite Water Employee after the meeting about the city’s stance.

That employee said that city staff is telling Dynamite Water something different from what it is saying publicly.

Public utility company EPCOR has filed an application with the Arizona Corporation Commission to provide water for haulers to the community. However, the company estimates it will take two to three years to purchase the water and build the infrastructure to do it.

In the meantime, EPCOR has approached the city and asked it to sell it water and agree to let it use the city standpipe for a short-term solution.

Scottsdale City Council is expected to discuss that proposal in executive session Nov. 21.

Bruns said he would welcome such a solution.

“By no means am I trying to get in the way of EPCOR,” Bruns said. “If they can come in and provide water, fantastic. I’m just trying to provide a solution as well.”

The situation stems from the federal Bureau of Land Management’s rationing of Colorado River water to the seven Basin States and assorted tribes.

That prompted Scottsdale to launch stage one of its Drought Management Plan, which ends water hauling in the Rio Verde Foothills area Jan. 1.

Of the 700 homeowners who pay to have a tanker fill up with water from a massive city-owned spigot and haul it to their homes for storage, 500 rely solely on that water while about 200 also have wells.

The situation is made possible because of “wildcat subdivisions” that do not require lots to have a 100-year water supply before they are developed.

State law allows a landowner to split land into as many as five lots without being subject to certain regulations on size, infrastructure and amenities.

Some in the community have been working for years to create a domestic water improvement district, but others vehemently opposed that.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in August to not allow the creation of the water district. That decision was strongly based on supervisor Tom Galvin’s recommendation against the water district.

Galvin said at the time “a non-contiguous DWID would not represent the entire community” and noted “liens would be placed on a number of properties, subjecting them to substantial obligations and liabilities.”

He also expressed concerns about a water district and its board’s long-term viability.

“In contrast, a private water utility corporation can address these water needs and has greater support from the community,” he said.

Two homeowners who rely on hauled water have sued the county over that decision and the case is still working its way through the courts.

Water haulers will still operate in the Rio Verde Foothills area, said John Hornewer, owner of Rio Verde Water. However, they will have to travel much farther to hook up to a water source.

That will result in a loss of up to 70% of business because the trucks will spend so much driving – causing a big rate hike, he said.

“I honestly thought it would never get down to this,” Hornewer said. “I thought the community would unite to solve this.”

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