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O'Halleran blasts deal between State Land Department and Saudi company

Utah State University
Alfalfa farming

Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran is blasting the Arizona State Land Department for allowing a Saudi Arabian company to pump unlimited amounts of groundwater from an area west of Phoenix.

According to O’Halleran, the deal with Fondomonte in Butler Valley involves no oversight from the state, which isn’t charging the correct market base rates for the leased land.

The company is growing water-intensive alfalfa for export in order to feed its cows in the Middle East.

It’s straining local aquifers, but the Fondomonte can still pump as much water as it wants at no cost.

O’Halleran says the water should be utilized for the benefit of Arizonans and not used by a foreign government.

“It is unfathomable to me that, during a 1,200-year drought, the Arizona State Land Department is allowing a Saudi Arabian company to grow one of the most water intensive crops year-round on state land, straining aquifers and using the state’s limited groundwater,” he says in a press release.

He’s calling for the State Land Department to recoup the financial losses.

Some estimates show the Saudi company has pumped nearly 7.5 billion gallons of Arizona groundwater a year for the last seven years.