New River residents fighting to prevent water crisis

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A group of New River residents has sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey and legislators demanding they do something to prevent a water crisis. Residents say developers are building multiple homes that will strain wells that are already drying up.

Right now, state law requires developers building subdivisions to prove homeowners will have access to water for many years to come. A subdivision is defined as more than five homes on a lot. Smaller housing clusters known as wildcat developments do not have to meet the long-term water requirement.

“We have to conserve,” says Ron Bentley, one of the New River residents behind the letter to state lawmakers. “All you people that live in rural unincorporated areas, pay attention to what’s going on around you.”

[READ MORE: New River, Desert Hills look to water utility to solve supply problem]

Bentley reached out to Maricopa County officials with concerns about development happening near his home and was disappointed to learn the county cannot deny building permits for wildcat developments based on water access.

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates has been meeting with residents about the issue but says the changes residents are seeking must happen at the state level.

“Per Arizona Revised Statutes, Maricopa County cannot require that there is sufficient water when approving a building permit unless the building falls within the definition of a subdivision (more than five lot splits on a parcel),” said Gates in an email requesting clarification. “If deemed a subdivision, per [Arizona Department of Water Resources], the subdivision is required to show a 100-year water supply.”

All three Legislative District 1 lawmakers were contacted for comment on the development concerns. State Rep Noel Campbell said in a phone call that he and his colleagues are monitoring the situation. He says changing the rules for developers big and small would be very difficult. Campbell says he has not been approached by county officials seeking guidance on the issue, but if and when they do reach out, he will work with them.

Campbell added he has received so many emails from residents that he will be speaking with Supervisor Gates to learn more.

Questions about wildcat developments have come up as New River and Desert Hills residents face increased fees for water hauling. Starting January 1, 2018 the City of Phoenix will no longer allow water haulers to collect from their taps, so haulers will be forced to drive more miles to collect from Peoria and Scottsdale, with increased operations costs passed on to the customer. Some haulers have said customers may end up paying three times what they pay now for water delivery.

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