Last year, Arizona made national news after allowing a foreign-owned farm to use massive amounts of the states groundwater in the middle of a water crisis. State leaders have criticized the lack of regulation here at home that allowed it to happen.

For nearly a decade, Saudi-based company Fondomonte was farming in La Paz County in Western Arizona, rural land where groundwater use is largely unregulated.

The farm grew thousands of acres of water intensive alfalfa, before shipping it back to Saudi Arabia to feed cattle. It paid below market rate for its state leases.


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Last fall, Governor Katie Hobbs canceled Fondomontes state land lease and said its three other leases in the area would not be renewed. They expired last month.

Hobbs says the decision came after an Arizona State Land Department inspection last year revealed ongoing lease issues and a default dating back to 2016.

Hobbs said in a statement, in part, Its unacceptable that Fondomonte has continued to pump unchecked amounts of groundwater out of our state while in clear default on their lease.

But Arizona farmers also want to protect


water future.

That is, to me, a very scary situation, said Marana and Eloy farmer Arnoldo Burruel, referring to the Fondomonte situation. He says the criticism against Fondomonte is unfair. He believes the lease issue is miniscule, and an excuse to take water from farmers.

Those gentlemen are out there investing heavily in something they bought and hold, legally, he said. Theyve broken no [water] laws, and yet theyre under attack.

Burruel fears this is an opportunistic takeover by the state, dismissing agriculture to quench the expanding Phoenix Valley.

Anybody who holds state land, like myself, is very much in fear of what theyre practicing. Because I think that its just the beginning, Burruel told KGUN.

Fondomontes land was in a so-called transportation basin, where the groundwater is part of an emergency supply for growing Arizona cities.

There are regulations for developers, who need to show a 100-year water supply in order to build, but there are loopholes involving short term rentals.

Burruel believes its time for cities, or other industries like mining, to start feeling their fair share of water cuts.

Its only been agriculture thats been under attack and its only been agriculture thats bled, he said.

Regarding its leases being ended by the state, a spokesperson on behalf of Fondomonte tells KGUN: We are still working as diligently as possible with the state on all these issues.”