Tensions are bubbling up at thirsty Arizona alfalfa farms as foreign firms exploit unregulated water

by Sophia Chen
Groundwater Exploitation

Tensions are escalating in the arid landscapes of western Arizona’s McMullen Valley, where the cultivation of alfalfa by foreign companies is raising concerns about unregulated water usage. The Hancock family, who have been using groundwater to cultivate forage crops in the region for over six decades, now find themselves facing uncertainty about the future of their water supply.

One of the main concerns arises from the presence of Emirati agribusiness Al Dahra, which has been farming alfalfa on approximately 3,000 acres in the area. While the exact amount of water consumed by Al Dahra remains undisclosed, Matthew Hancock estimates that their operation requires between 15,000 to 16,000 acre feet of water annually. This surge in demand for water resources has local farmers worried about the possibility of state officials redirecting groundwater to urban areas like Phoenix amidst a severe drought in the Western region.

The implications of this situation are significant, particularly in the context of the upcoming COP28, the United Nations climate summit taking place in Dubai. Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), face unique vulnerabilities due to their high temperatures, arid climates, water scarcity, and rising sea levels, making water resources a critical issue.

Experts argue that as the impacts of climate change intensify, more countries, especially those facing water scarcity, will seek alternative locations for food production. This drive to secure water and land resources has led international corporations, not only to Arizona but also to other regions, including parts of Africa, for large-scale farming operations.

However, the absence of groundwater pumping regulations in rural Arizona has made it particularly attractive to such ventures. This lack of regulation has raised concerns about depleting aquifers, drying up wells, subsidence, and the potential consequences for local communities.

La Paz County Supervisor Holly Irwin expressed concerns about the adverse effects of unchecked groundwater pumping, emphasizing the need for measurement and control of water usage by farms. Governor Katie Hobbs also took action by revoking the state’s land lease on an alfalfa farm operated by a subsidiary of Saudi dairy giant Almarai Co.

Water policy experts stress the importance of sensible regulation to protect groundwater while also supporting the agricultural sector. This balancing act becomes crucial as corporations like Al Dahra expand their agricultural operations globally, with a focus on food security and efficient water use.

Despite these challenges, foreign and out-of-state U.S. farms continue to operate in Arizona and export their produce worldwide. In the face of these issues, residents and experts alike call for greater control over groundwater usage in unregulated areas to ensure the sustainability of water resources.

In conclusion, the growing tensions around unregulated groundwater usage in Arizona highlight the pressing need for comprehensive regulations to safeguard vital water resources while addressing the demands of agriculture and global food security. This issue takes on added significance in the context of climate change and increasing water scarcity, which will continue to shape the future of water management and agriculture worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Groundwater Exploitation

What is the main issue addressed in this text?

The main issue addressed in this text is the escalating tensions in western Arizona’s McMullen Valley due to the unregulated usage of groundwater by foreign agricultural firms, particularly for growing alfalfa.

Who are the key players in this situation?

Key players in this situation include the Hancock family, local farmers, Emirati agribusiness Al Dahra, Governor Katie Hobbs, and Almarai Co., a subsidiary of which operates in the region. Additionally, experts in water policy and sustainability contribute to the discussion.

What is the concern about groundwater usage in this region?

The primary concern is that the growing demand for water resources by foreign agricultural companies, such as Al Dahra, could deplete ancient aquifers in the region. This raises worries about the sustainability of water supplies for local communities and the potential for state officials to redirect groundwater to urban areas in the face of a severe Western drought.

Why is the issue of water resources particularly relevant in the lead-up to COP28?

The issue of water resources is highly relevant because Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as water scarcity. As these countries seek to secure water and land resources for agriculture, it leads to tensions and competition in regions like Arizona.

What are the potential consequences of unchecked groundwater pumping in rural Arizona?

Unchecked groundwater pumping in rural Arizona can lead to adverse effects such as dried-up wells, subsidence, ground fissures, and flooding during heavy rains. These consequences can disrupt local communities and impact water availability for agriculture.

How are experts and policymakers responding to this situation?

Experts and policymakers are advocating for sensible regulation to balance the needs of agriculture with the protection of groundwater resources. Some actions have been taken, such as the revocation of state land leases and crackdowns on unfettered groundwater pumping. However, there is a call for more comprehensive regulations to ensure sustainable water management.

What are the global implications of this issue?

This issue has global implications as it highlights the challenges posed by climate change and water scarcity in the context of food production. As countries and corporations seek water and land resources worldwide, it underscores the importance of responsible resource management to address food security and environmental sustainability.

More about Groundwater Exploitation

  • AP News Article – The original AP News article discussing tensions over groundwater usage in Arizona.
  • COP28 – Official website of COP28, the United Nations climate summit mentioned in the text.
  • Al Dahra – Official website of Al Dahra, the Emirati agribusiness involved in the Arizona farming operations.
  • Almarai Co. – Official website of Almarai Co., the Saudi dairy giant with subsidiary operations in Arizona.
  • University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center – Resource for information on water policy and research at the University of Arizona.
  • Chatham House – Official website of Chatham House, a think tank mentioned in the text, with insights on climate change and sustainability.

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AgriExpert99 November 28, 2023 - 2:08 pm

ths text shows imp of regl8n. must protct grndwtr. need balnce.

Reader123 November 28, 2023 - 11:22 pm

so dis is like a big deal rite? water probs, farms, forigners, phnx, serious stuff


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