Arizona AG Kris Mayes Revokes Water Permits for Saudi Arabia-Owned Farm

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 08: Kris Mayes, Democratic candidate for Arizona Attorney General, speaks at a Women's March rally in support of midterm election candidates who support abortion rights outside the State Capitol on October 8, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. Mayes faces Trump-endorsed Arizona Republican nominee for attorney general Abe Hamadeh in the midterm elections on November 8. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Camaron Stevenson

April 24, 2023

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes just saved her state a ton of water—6,000 gallons per minute, to be exact.

That’s how much water would have been pumped from two proposed wells on a Saudi Arabia-owned farm in La Paz County. The farm uses the water to grow alfalfa, which is shipped back to Saudi Arabia and used as livestock feed.

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The drill permits were approved in August, while Republican Gov. Doug Ducey ran the state’s executive branch. When Mayes assumed office, she reviewed the permits and found enough inconsistencies in the application to convince the state to rescind them.

The amount of water drawn from the wells—3,000 gallons per minute—equals a substantial amount of Arizona’s groundwater supply. For reference, the average household of four uses 17,000 gallons per month.
Several large corporate farms in western and southeastern Arizona have come under criticism for using large amounts of water as the southwestern United States is experiencing a severe drought.

“We know by anecdotal evidence that wells are being de-watered by these big farming operations. We know that land is subsiding. We can see that with our eyes,” Mayes said. “We have existing law that we don’t think his being followed.”

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In the past, La Paz County leaders have voiced concern about companies from the Middle East moving to the state to grow alfalfa that will be shipped overseas. They have said the companies are exploiting Arizona’s groundwater law that allows farms to pump as much water as they want in a time of drought. County leaders have voiced concerns over the future water supply.

And why are these farms in Arizona in the first place? Alfalfa is illegal to grow in Saudi Arabia due to how much water the crop requires.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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