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Drought leads to water shut-off in Arizona suburb

A small community on the edge of Scottsdale, Arizona has had its water supply shut-off by the city as extreme drought continues to grip the Southwest.

Until recently the 1,000 residents of Rio Verde Foothills bought water from the neighbouring city in lieu of its own supply.

However The New York Times reported on Monday that Scottsdale turned off the taps due to its own needs amid the prolonged “megadrought” which has seized the West for the past two decades. Residents in the planned community told The Times that they were now flushing toilets with rainwater and limiting showers in an effort to save water in the short-term, but feared for their long-term property investments.

A city memo, from 29th December, read: “As Scottsdale prioritizes water for its residents under the city’s Drought Management Plan, it will cease allowing city water to be purchased and hauled to Maricopa County residents in the Rio Verde Foothills area on Jan. 1.

“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.”

Construction has boomed in the Rio Verde Foothills in recent years, The Times reported, due to cheap land and a state legal loophole that allowed developers to build homes without fixed water supplies. Now that water can no longer be trucked in from Scottsdale, families’ water bills have soared.

Despite a recent winter storm that swept across parts of northern Arizona and dumped 20 inches of snow, the state remains stricken by drought. The US Drought Monitor revealed last week that roughly two-thirds of the state was abnormally dry or in moderate drought.

Lake Mead, the US’s largest reservoir which supplies about one-third of Arizona’s water, hit record lows in 2022 and has seen little recovery this winter.

The climate crisis, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, is raising the average global temperature but the US Southwest is a hotspot. America’s fastest-warming cities all lie in the Southwest, with each getting at least 4.3F hotter in the last 40 years, Climate Central reported.

Research published last year by UCLA revealed that the current mega-drought is the region’s driest period in 1,200 years. The study also found that it could take several years of high precipitation to overcome the mega-drought. “It’s extremely unlikely that this drought can be ended in one wet year,” UCLA geographer Park Williams said at the time.

The rising heat not only increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather but stresses local water supplies along with food systems and public health.

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