Rep. Gallego looks to crack down on foreign governments using Arizona water

A report estimates the company uses enough water to supply about 54,000 homes.
A report estimates the company uses enough water to supply about 54,000 homes.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 5:19 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego wants Congress to make it more costly for foreign countries to use groundwater in states dealing with droughts like Arizona. The Democrat introduced the Domestic Water Protection Act on Wednesday. The measure would impose a 300% tax on the sale and export of any “water-intensive” crops that are grown in drought-stricken states by companies and governments outside the U.S. Gallego said the high tax rate reflects the “unjustifiable disparity in land lease rates between domestic and foreign producers in Arizona.”

The proposal comes in response to Arizona leasing farmland to Fondomonte, a Saudi company that uses the Grand Canyon State’s groundwater to grow alfalfa. While Fondomonte doesn’t say how much it uses per year, a report from Arizona’s State Land Department estimates the company uses 18,000 acre-feet annually, which is enough to supply water to about 54,000 homes. The same report said the value of the water could be up to $3.9 million per year. Fondomonte also reportedly leases the land at just $25 acre, which is 50% lower than the market value.

Arizona has been in a drought for roughly the past two decades. A handful of cities in the Valley have introduced water restriction recommendations and more could be on the way. During the summer, the federal government announced water cuts to states that rely on the Colorado River, whose water line continues to fall. As a result, Arizona will lose 21% of its annual allotment from the river next year.