"How A Saudi Firm Tapped A Gusher Of Water In Drought-Stricken Arizona"

"Lax rules let the foreign-owned company pump water from state land to grow alfalfa for the kingdom’s cattle. After almost a decade, the deal is in jeopardy."

"BUTLER VALLEY, Ariz. — A megadrought has seared Arizona, stressing its rivers and reservoirs and reducing water to a trickle in the homes of farmworkers near this desert valley.

But green fields of alfalfa stretch across thousands of acres of the desert land, shimmering in the burning sunlight. Wells draw water from deep underground, turning the parched earth into verdant farmland.

For nearly a decade, the state of Arizona has leased this rural terrain west of Phoenix to a Saudi-owned company, allowing it to pump all the water it needs to grow the alfalfa hay — a crop it exports to feed the kingdom’s dairy cows. And, for years, the state did not know how much water the company was consuming.

The lack of information was a choice.

Soon after the company, Fondomonte Arizona, arrived in the Butler Valley in 2015, state planners suggested asking the company to install meters and report its water use, according to a memo reviewed by The Washington Post. That way, the memo argued, the state could “at least obtain accurate information” on water drained from the valley — water that could otherwise serve as backup for booming urban areas."

Isaac Stanley-Becker, Joshua Partlow, and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report for the Washington Post July 16, 2023.

Source: Washington Post, 07/17/2023