Categories: US

Water is drying up in Arizona because foreign owned megafarms are sucking it up for their crops

Water consumed daily by residents of Wenden, Arizona, is starting to dry up as megafarms owned and supported by sovereign nations use it to grow their crops.

Groundwater is considered a necessity to grow agriculture in the Southwest, and as the Colorado River basin experiences a prolonged drought due to climate change, Arizona’s congested aquifers are rapidly depleting, impacting local lifestyles and economy.

Residents in towns like Wenden and Salome get their water from the same source as farms — underground pools — and declining groundwater levels in the area suggest water levels have dropped from about 30 feet in the 1950s to about 540 feet in 2022, according to CNN.

And while Arizona’s La Paz county is experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 years, as are other areas in the state and the US southwestern region, Foreign-owned farms growing crops that require large amounts of water, such as alfalfa, are blamed for the drought.

To make matters worse, the crops grown by these megafarms are eventually shipped to feed livestock and other livestock elsewhere in the world, mainly in the Middle East, especially the United Arab Emirates.

Parts of Arizona have suffered the area’s worst water drought in 1,200 years as groundwater levels plummet

General view of Fondomonte Farms, in Vicksburg, Arizona, supported by Saudi Arabia

Water tables in the area suggest the water level has dropped from about 30 feet in the 1950s to about 540 feet in 2022

Al Dahra Agricultural company, based in Abu-Dhabi, and Fondomonte Arizona LLC – a commercial agricultural company wholly owned by Almarai, one of the largest dairy companies in the Gulf [water]that’s why they’re here,” Holly Irwin, La Paz County supervisor, told CNN.

She added: “That’s what makes people the most angry. We should take care of ourselves, and we’ll just let them come in, buy real estate and keep punching holes in the ground.”

Since a law banning farms from growing thirsty crops like alfalfa and hay was passed in 2018 in Saudi Arabia, “raw material comes from abroad,” Eckart Woertz, director of the Germany-based GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies, told cnn.

Issues related to climate change have hit the Gulf region hard, where agriculture was once considered a prosperous industry. Now the United Arab Emirates imports 80 percent of its food production, according to My Bayut, the nation’s “most popular real estate and lifestyle blog.”

“They’ve definitely increased production,” Irwin further told CNN. “They’ve grown so much since they got here.”

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Al Dahra Farm, based in Abu-Dhabi, owns 30,000 hectares of land near Wenden

Al Dahri is one of the largest dairies in the Gulf region, exporting alfalfa and hay to its livestock in the United Arab Emirates and other nearby countries

The Almarai Company, operating under its US subsidiary Fondomonte, owns approximately 10,000 acres of farmland in Vicksburg and is one of the largest dairy suppliers in the Gulf. As of 2022, it will be valued at $14.65 billion, according to Market capitalization companies


The Saudi-backed company also owns nearly 3,500 acres in Southern California, another popular spot for mass farming in America, and uses water from the Colorado River to feed its crops.

Foreign-owned megafarms have become a ubiquitous sight in Arizona as they expanded from about 1.25 million acres in 2010 to nearly three million acres by 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. In the Midwest, farmland owned by sovereign nations has quadrupled.

“It makes you feel closer to the source,” Woertz told CNN. ‘The feeling of owning or leasing land elsewhere and having direct bilateral access’ [to water] gives you a sense of perhaps false security.’

In 2014, Fondomonte bought 10,000 acres of farmland for $47.5 million, and it also has ties to the state to grow its plow land.

The crops grown on these megafarms, mostly alfalfa and hay, are later put on trucks for export to Saudi Arabia.

Almarai has previously said its operations in Arizona are related to “ongoing efforts to improve and secure the supply of the highest quality alfalfa hay from outside the Kingdom to support its dairy operations.”

“It is also in line with the Saudi government’s direction to conserve local resources,” he said Arabic news – the largest English language daily in Saudi Arabia.

“Fondomonte decided to invest in the Southwestern United States, just as hundreds of other farms have done because of the high-quality soils and climatic conditions that allow the growth of some of the best quality alfalfa in the world,” Almarai said through one of his spokespersons. .

Local residents and officials are now battling not only millions of businesses, but countries themselves experiencing droughts similar to those in the southwestern region in a race for Earth’s most important resource – water.

“We are literally exporting our economy abroad,” Cynthia Campbell, a water management consultant for the city of Phoenix, told CNN. “I’m sorry, but there’s no Saudi milk coming back to Southern California or Arizona. The value of that agricultural production is not reflected in value in the US.’

According to The Associated Press, Arizona will get about 36 percent of its total water supply from the Colorado River by 2020.

That share of farms and cities feeding river water has declined somewhat since then, with the advent of a federally approved drought emergency plan, which will reduce the state’s river water use by 21 percent from 2023. It is expected to fall further in the coming years, but no one knows how much now.


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