U.S. water flows like gold to the Saudi desert

Community SaddleBrooke

This falls into the “Did you know category”?

Water-intensive crops like cotton appear along the rural highways in the hot Phoenix sun. Water-hungry lawns spring into sight as you enter the more affluent neighborhoods in the valley center. These raise eyebrows and questions as water dwindles and shortages are straining some communities.

Some water conservation efforts have been underway in many areas. Most golf courses that have survived and thrived have been redesigned golf courses. Courses are reducing turf and utilizing reclaimed water.

Communities have introduced programs to encourage desert trees that promote water retention in soil.

Is the future bright for trees in the Arizona desert?

But what else is raising eyebrows again? When did the Saudis and water come into the public magnifying glass? Some counties in Arizona have very lax water rights laws. The Saudi water connection has a fascinating history. That Saudi relationship with Arizona water is back into a more focused public view.

Water the new liquid goldNational Park Service

Saudi Arabia and other countries are buying up farmland across the southwest. While some small rural areas run dry and have to haul their basic water needs, the Saudis grow alfalfa hay and ship it back home to feed their domestic livestock. As they produce feed elsewhere, they save their own water. This is basically exporting U.S. water.

Another recent purchase was by Fondomonte California, a private company with a Saudi food giant parent company. It snapped up another section of farmland along the Colorado River in California.

CNBC has a recent article on the subject. They reported that Blythe, California Mayor Joseph DeConinck appeared to have little concern about conserving or exporting U.S. water. He grows alfalfa himself and the valley has the first water rights on the river. Prices for dairy products in the U.S. are ultimately affected by the control of U.S. farmland and water.

The article highlights other countries jumping into the U.S. hay market. Other food products are also part of the global market.

As local resources and wells run dry, the Saudis are utilizing land with little to no regulation on groundwater use. There are approximately 23 water wells on La Paz county land in Arizona. Each of those wells is able to pump more than 100,000 gallons daily with no restrictions.

There is no easy path or answer in a complicated and stressed global water market.

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