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.
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.”
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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