Rep. Ruben Gallego digs in for fight against foreign companies over Arizona groundwater

Oct 20, 2022, 11:21 AM

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)...

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

PHOENIX — An Arizona lease of farmland to a Saudi company is straining water resources, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego said, and the bill he introduced this week aims to make the situation more fair.

“They do not need to be taking our water, which is very precious, especially in an area where we’re not sure we can recharge the aquifer,” Gallego told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Thursday.

“The purpose of this bill is so that at least it will level the playing field, that there is some punishment for these foreign companies that try to buy our land and take our water.”

The Democrat submitted Domestic Water Protection Act of 2022 on Wednesday in response to a yearslong agreement between the Arizona State Land Department and Fondomonte, a company based in Saudi Arabia that grows water-intensive alfalfa outside of Phoenix.

Under the agreement, Fondomonte uses enough groundwater to supply 54,000 homes a year, according to data from Gallego’s office.

And they’re paying less for the water than Arizona farmers, said Gallego, who sits on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“The water they’re actually using costs more than the alfalfa, but we don’t actually charge them for the water. So what we’re doing in this bill is charging them 300 times excise tax if you use water-intensive plants, if you are a foreign government and if you’re doing it in a drought-stricken area. This hits all three,” he said.

Gallego said the bill doesn’t violate any international trade agreements.

“We haven’t heard any pushback [from the Saudis],” he said.

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Rep. Ruben Gallego digs in for fight against foreign companies over Arizona groundwater