Arizona city officials cut off our community's water supply. My family has relied on paper plates, 3-minute showers, and lots of bottled water to avoid a potential $1,300 monthly water bill.
On January 1, a suburb outside Scottsdale, Arizona, had its water supply shut off.
Residents like Cody Reim have had to drastically conserve water as they seek an alternative source.
This is Reim's story as told to reporter Lloyd Lee.
This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Cody Reim, 31, a resident of Rio Verde, Arizona. Rio Verde is an unincorporated neighborhood just outside Scottsdale. On January 1, Scottsdale city officials cut off the water supply for about 1,000 Rio Verde residents due to extreme drought conditions. Community members like Reim have since had to severely cut back on water usage as they're left to seek alternative sources. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.
In the past month, my family of six has made big cuts to our water usage since the City of Scottsdale cut off access to a water-fill station Rio Verde residents have relied on for years.
With my wife Shae and four kids, we went from using around 300 gallons of water a day to close to 120 gallons a day.
I've been scrambling to organize last-minute community meetings and get our federal and state representatives to come down here to help us figure out a solution. The only alternative at the moment is to get our water from fill stations about an hour and a half away from our home. This would increase our monthly bill with water haulers from $380 to about $1,300 a month.
If nothing gets resolved in the upcoming weeks, I worry that this area is literally going to turn into "Mad Max," and we're going to need some serious help out here. It's going to be chaotic, it's going to be dangerous, it's going to be very bad.
I don't want to see that for my community.
We purchased our home on July 14, 2021. It was great finally not renting anymore.
The house is about 1,400 square feet; has three beds, two bathrooms, a two-car garage; and sits on about an acre of land. It's a little small for our kids — we have three sons, who are 10, 8, and 2 years old, and a one-year-old daughter — but it was great.
When we moved in, I sat in the backyard, took a handful of dirt, and thought: This is my dirt. I can do whatever I want with it. I don't have to ask a landlord if I want to plant some grass or if I can plant a tree.
Being in Rio Verde also allows us to be close to my parents who have lived in the community since around 2012 or 2013.
Our house is connected to a water tank
One thing to know about our home is that it is not hooked to a central water supply or a private well like my parent's house. Instead, we have a 4,500-gallon underground tank that is refilled by a water hauler.
For a hauled-water home, you basically pick a water-hauling company you want based on price and reliability. The company then comes to your house to install what's called a "tank monitor." The device automatically tells the company when your tank is at a "critical low level," which varies by a household's daily usage habits. My critical low level can be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 gallons because we were using about 280 to 300 gallons a day. This is normal since an average household uses 300 gallons a day. We were already conserving water because hauled water can be expensive.
Our usage fluctuates, especially during summer months, but on average our water bill was about $360 to $380 a month. The hauling company would come around about two to three times a month.
We would have really liked to have a home on a good-producing well, like my parents, because $380 is really expensive for water. But those houses moved out of our price range before we can even make an offer. I thought out the cost difference and realized, over 30 to 40 years, a home on hauled water would pay for itself. Down the road, we could even sell the house or rent it.
Plus, the process of getting our water refilled was mostly hands-off. The monitor is automatic. We never really had to worry about it.
Then, reality kicked in
Around the middle of December, after trying to work out a solution with the City of Scottsdale, it started to become a reality that the city would cut off our water supply on January 1.
So my family started to draft up a plan: How do we conserve the most water? What's our critical low level, and what do we do once we reach that point? We continued to live our normal, everyday life until the water hauler filled up our tank one last time that month.
Since then, we made a lot of adjustments in our household. We try to cook in a way that requires little to no dishwashing.
We cook as much as possible with our cast iron pan, for example, since you shouldn't put that in a dishwasher anyway. You just heat the pan up real hot and use a wet cloth. We also cook more out of our crock pot. Whatever we cook in it, the pot also becomes a kind of serving dish for the next few days.
If we do use serving dishes, it's paper plates, plastic utensils, and red Solo cups only. There are basically no dishes being done. My wife has limited it down to maybe one or two loads of dishwashing a week. We may have done one or two loads since the water supply was cut off.
Laundry is done mostly at my parents' house. We're very lucky to be able to go to my parents' house and use their machine since their home is connected to a well. My wife goes maybe once or twice a week. She may have done one load at our house since the shut-off.
We used our water supply for drinking water in the beginning, but we bought a bunch of bottled water. We're going to be switching to that.
If it's yellow, let it mellow
We're going with the old rule everyone knows for the bathroom: If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down. My three boys are kind of having fun with it. They just go outside sometimes since we have about 35 acres of desert right in front of our house.
I also modified the toilets a little bit so that they won't use as much water per flush. By putting a water bottle in the toilet tank, it adjusts the water level inside. That saves about a quart and a half every flush. It's not much, but a quart and a half of water is a quart and a half of water.
Showers are timed. Showers are really the only things we're using the water at our house for. But even then, we do maybe half or two-thirds of our showers at my parent's house. We're also not doing the same number of showers as we used to.
When we shower at home, we're on a three-minute time limit. There's no waiting for warm water anywhere — the shower, the faucet, anywhere. As soon as the water turns on, you better be ready to use it right when that water comes out.
Livestock comes first
We have chickens and sheep as well as dogs who will continue to get water. So if our tank reaches a certain low level, we will cut off the water to our house first.
Our livestock can survive on about 250 gallons of water for about two to three weeks.
For the animals, I could go to the fill stations that are about an hour and a half away, every one or two weeks, or to my friend who is looking out for us and allows us to use the water coming out of the garden hose.
With that, I can fill up these tanks called IBC totes to keep the animals alive. We have two of these tanks that are 275 gallons each. What I can't do is rely on the totes to keep up with our normal daily lives.
I'm continuing to fight
Without the Scottsdale fill station, water hauling companies have had to jack up the price for their services. We've been able to avoid refilling our tank for now, but once we do, our bill will be about $440 per visit or $1,320 a month.
For my family, the issue has been on everyone's mind, but we don't talk about it too much in the house. The kids are young so they're not too worried. They have my wife and me to look up to and they know that we're going to care of them.
I'm not drastically worried either. I know this is a big issue, but I'm just focused on fighting and getting us our water back. I can't sit here and just worry. On top of my job, I've also been working to rally the community together, organizing events on Facebook.
This whole situation has been a stain on Arizona. I hate that this is happening to my state, and I don't want this kind of publicity for my state. I'm going to stay and fight as long as I can stay here.
I'm glad that I can use my parents' house for our essential needs for water. But not everybody has that afforded to them. Not everybody has a friend or a family member who is on a well that can support them.
You withhold water from anyone for a certain amount of time, people are going to do what they're going to do to survive.
Read the original article on Insider