The Arizona Department of Water Resources recently reported that a large portion of Arizona is currently facing drought.
Even with critical water scarcity, one Saudi Arabian company has been granted extraction access to the state’s invaluable groundwater source, noting that it wants to use it for agricultural purposes in its home country.
Arizona’s current water situation is similar to California’s in many ways.
Despite a relatively wet winter, the state is still grappling with what experts are calling a “megadrought.”
According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the government does not currently have any statewide regulations limiting water usage. It’s up to local governments to implement water conservation measures, depending on the needs of their specific areas.
This is why many say Fondomonte Arizona, the Saudi Arabian company, has not encountered any restrictions.
Fondomonte, which operates as a subsidiary of Almarai Co., is utilizing groundwater extraction to cultivate alfalfa, one of the most water-demanding crops in the world.
Because of this, alfalfa is prohibited in Saudi Arabia’s arid regions.
Unfortunately, Arizona legislators haven’t taken measures to stop the company from growing alfalfa on state land, all of which they plan to export to the Middle East. This could be a huge blow for Arizona in the coming years.
With limited rainfall and an arid climate, the state’s residents heavily depend on ground and river water for their homes, businesses, and crops.
To make matters worse, with prolonged drought and excessive water use, however, these water sources are shrinking. In fact, the water level of the Colorado River is also in steep decline, along with several of the state’s major aquifers.
With water scarcity at an all-time high, residents will no doubt start facing hardships. The cost of water is likely to increase, and certain cities may experience shortages. To provide equitable distribution, implementing restrictions on things like watering lawns may become necessary in the coming years, if not sooner. If the situation continues getting worse, farmers could be significantly impacted as well.
Arizona’s Attorney General, Kris Mayes, vehemently opposes Fondomonte’s current water usage and is determined to have the company’s leases for state land revoked in order to prevent any additional water waste.
She expressed her strong disapproval, calling the situation a “scandal,” and emphasized that allowing practices like this in the State of Arizona is unacceptable. The cancellation of Fondomonte leases was a central focus of her recent campaign, and she emphasized that it’s anything but feasible or justifiable to give away the state’s water resources for free, especially to the Saudis.
Holly Irwin, a La Paz County supervisor, has also expressed concerns about foreign-owned farms since their establishment in 2015. She noted that Fondomonte, in particular, is cultivating alfalfa in the Arizona desert due to the depletion of their own natural resources at home.
The company transports the dried alfalfa from their property to the Middle East, using it for cattle feed. Mayes notes that the cows in Saudi Arabia are essentially consuming Arizona-sourced water.
What’s more unusual is that their activities in Arizona are 100% legal. The state leases plots of land to Fondomonte for $25 per acre, and because of this, they are able to extract as much groundwater as they want.
Records and leases dating back to 2014 indicate that Fondomonte has rights over more than 6,000 acres of state-owned land, including groundwater, which were authorized by Arizona’s State Land Department.