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Saudi Arabia Gets “Sweet Deal” on Scarce Water Resources in Arizona

09/07/2022

In June The Arizona Republic conducted an investigation that disclosed that the Arizona Land Department had extended a lease to Fondomonte, a company owned by investors in Saudi Arabia to grow alfalfa under irrigation.  The product is shipped to Saudi Arabia to feed dairy cattle.  Fondomonte is paying $86,000 annually to lease land in the Butler Valley at a rate of approximately $25 per acre.  This figure according to The Arizona Republic is considerably lower than market value.  The water that is abstracted from an aquifer is required as a backup for both urban consumption and livestock.  The current lease is considered disadvantageous to the citizens and State of Arizona since knowledgeable agriculture economists consider the value of water and land used by Fondomonte to be worth $4 to 5 billion annually.

 

Kris Mayes candidate for State Attorney General is calling for a moratorium on the lease pending investigation as to the circumstances of the payment consideration and whether the lease was granted in conflict with the state constitution. Mayes stated, “I think most Arizonians find it shocking that our government has given the state’s water away to a Saudi corporation at a time of extreme drought.”   He added, “This Saudi water lease is a flat-out scandal, and our current Governor and Attorney General allowed it to happen on their watch.” 

 

Mayes is joined in his opposition to the lease by gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) and by her opponent Katie Hobbs (D).  The Republican candidate for Attorney General, Abe Hamadeh appears to be in concert with his opponent Kris Mayes in stating, “Government should not be subsidizing private industry, especially when it involves private or foreign entities freely accessing and capitalizing from our natural resources.”  He added, “I have a growing concern that the Agency tasked to care for our state land has been involved in recent controversy relating to underdeveloped public land auctions.” 

 

Given the unanimity of both Democratic and Republican candidate for major state offices, it would appear that the lease will have to be amended if not cancelled.  More importantly an investigation should determine whether there were any irregularities in negotiations leading to what may be regarded as an extremely beneficial deal for Fondomonte.