AZ to end groundwater deal with Saudi Arabian company

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Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs’ administration announced on Monday two steps to stop a controversial Saudi Arabian company from using groundwater beneath state land in western Arizona to grow and export alfalfa.

Hobbs said in a statement the Arizona State Land Department had canceled one of its leases to Fondomonte Arizona, and would not renew three others that are set to expire in February.

“I’m not afraid to do what my predecessors refused to do: hold people accountable, maximize value for the state land trust, and protect Arizona’s water future,” Hobbs said in a statement. “It’s unacceptable that Fondomonte has continued to pump unchecked amounts of groundwater out of our state while in clear default on their lease.”

Sarah Porter, Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU, joined Arizona Horizon to explain the decision and what it could mean for Arizonans.

“The issue isn’t so much how they’re paying for the water, but perhaps the issue is that anyone can drill the well and use all of the water for an industrial scale agricultural operation,” Porter said.

In the state of Arizona, there are designated areas or active management areas, where this could not happen. There are strict limits on the drilling of wells Porter said. In 80% of the land area of the state, there aren’t any limitations on the drilling of wells and withdrawal of groundwater.

“As a state, we should focus less on the provenance of the agricultural operator,” Porter said. “And focus more on making sure that we aren’t allowing people to be very vulnerable because of large new groundwater demand.”

Sarah Porter, Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU

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