Arizona is leasing farmland to a Saudi water company, straining aquifers, and threatening future water supply in Phoenix. Fondomonte, a Saudi company, exports the alfalfa to feed its cows in the Middle East. The country has practically exhausted its own underground aquifers there. In Arizona, Fondomonte can pump as much water as it wants at no cost.
Groundwater is unregulated in most rural areas of the state. Fondomonte pays only $25 per acre annually. The State Land Department says the market rate is $50 dollars per acre and it provides a 50% discount because it doesn’t pay for improvements. But the $25 per acre price is about one-sixth of the market price for unimproved farmland with flood irrigation today, according to Charlie Havranek, a Realtor at Southwest Land Associates.
Although there are no records for how much Fondomonte is pumping out of the aquifer, a State Land Department report estimates the company is swallowing as much as 18,000 acre-feet every year – enough water to supply 54,000 single-family homes.Saudi water deal threatening water supply in Phoenix – Arizona PBS