(WATCH) Water Wars


For more than a decade, the state of Arizona has seemed to be in a perpetual state of drought. That’s focused attention on the growing battles over the U.S. water supply and on the foreign thirst for American water. Scott Thuman reports. 

The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.

In Salome, Arizona, 90 minutes west of Phoenix, there’s little room to escape those hot summer days where the average temperature is 102, in a state with more than 300 days of sun every year.

And that means water is a hot commodity, which makes these fields the fodder for some equally scorching criticism.

Holly Irwin: I am mad. I’m very frustrated.

Holly Irwin, Supervisor for La Paz County, is sounding the alarm over what she calls the state’s unchecked use of groundwater for the alfalfa hay that, for years, has been grown, harvested, and shipped from these western Arizona fields to the Middle East.

Irwin: Who’s to say how much they’re pumping out? There’s no structure for any of this. And eventually, over time, the amount of groundwater pumping, there’s going to be none.

Fondomonte Arizona is a Saudi Arabian-based company that has owned 10,000 acres here since the year 2015.

The hay they produce has been sent back overseas to feed cattle.

Irwin: Some of these pumps, specifically to this location, varies anywhere from 3,500 gallons per minute up to 4,300 gallons per minute.

Scott Thuman: That’s a lot of water.

Irwin: That’s one well. That’s just one. They have quite a few on this property.

The farm’s rural location means the state did not require the company to seek permission to farm, drill wells, or report on or pay for any water use.

So much alfalfa is grown and harvested here, trucks hauling it create a perennial traffic jam.

Irwin: Are you seeing all of it? I mean, it’s all day. All day, this happens. You’ll see hay go in and out of here all day long.

Saudi-owned farms aren’t the only growers from the Middle East. In Mohave County, Arizona, a company from the United Arab Emirates purchased thousands of acres of land to cultivate pistachios, another thirsty crop.

Amid the controversy over precious water being used to enrich Mideast operations, Arizona recently ended land leases that gave Fondomonte, that company growing alfalfa hay, the ability to pump unlimited groundwater.

Fondomonte says it will appeal Arizona’s decision. Not all of the company’s farms here are affected by the governor’s move, which doesn’t impact other foreign companies now farming in the state. For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman, in Salome, Arizona.

Watch video here.

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2 thoughts on “(WATCH) Water Wars”

  1. It ludicrous and an absolute farce that greedy Americans are selling our farm land and resources to foreign entities when we don’t take care of our own citizens. It is another example of the problem of uncontrolled greed in this country. It borders on treasonous at times.

  2. I am concerned about the dwindling power of AMERICAN FARMERS politically with regards to water and land rights. We must weigh varying interests and goals when it comes to resources. There was a recent article “Measuring the Legacy of Water Use” about the “Top 20 water users” in the California Imperial Valley contrasting water “used to grow hay” versus “used to grow food for people” that also shows a certain political trend in the news. You may not eat alfalfa, but you may eat animals and use imported or domestic products from animals that eat alfalfa. Cows/beef, sheep, goats and even hogs eat alfalfa. This creates food and products, whether or not it is food you approve of (e.g. beef). Notably, we have increasing consumers and decreasing producers with significantly fewer farms and farmers every year since 1935, and the average age of U.S. farmers is just a few years shy of 60. (USDA) Small farms, which are primarily inherited, are not great profit centers. Farmer owners are consolidating for survival. There are also more corporations subletting land to contract farmers. Everyone depends on farms for food, but most people live lives divorced from the realities of what it takes to produce food. With decreasing amounts of arable land, decreasing desirability and profitability of farming, and increased lack of understanding of the public about how we get the things we use and consume, you have to wonder where things are going. It’s not simple.

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