Saudi dairy company Fondomonte ceases water pumping in far west Arizona

Mar 8, 2024, 10:06 AM | Updated: 10:26 am

The left image shows an Almarai logo in Cairo, Egypt, and the right image shows hay dried and store...

The left image shows an Almarai logo in Cairo, Egypt, and the right image shows hay dried and stored at the alfalfa farm in Vicksburg, Arizona in June 2023. (Getty and AP Files photos)

(Getty and AP Files photos)

PHOENIX — A Saudi dairy company that once pumped water through a lease on local farmland in far west Arizona has officially ceased operations.

Fondomonte Arizona, a subsidiary of Almarai Co., was no longer irrigating water at any of its four Butler Valley leases as of Feb. 15, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced.

Operations came to a halt months after the company received notice of lease termination for one of its properties due to an outstanding debt, alongside the news that its remaining three leases would not be renewed.

“I am proud to deliver this not just for the La Paz County community, but for the entire state of Arizona and will continue taking decisive action to protect Arizona’s water so we can thrive for generations to come,” Hobbs said in a press release.

It was also confirmed through visual inspections that Fondomonte was in the process of vacating the property, although an appeal filed by the company is pending.

Scrutiny and default: Fondomonte’s water extraction permits rescinded

Following an investigation, Attorney General Kris Mayes rescinded a pair of permits, which would have authorized drilling depths exceeding 1,000 feet in the water table to extract up to 3,000 gallons.

Fondomonte specializes in growing alfalfa, a crop known for its high water consumption, destined for export to Saudi Arabia to support livestock farming.

The state’s scrutiny extended to inspections of major state trust land leases, revealing Fondomonte’s significant default on its 2016 lease. Despite being notified and given an opportunity later that November to rectify various defaults under its Butler Valley leases, the company failed to address critical issues such as the absence of secondary containment structures for its fuel and diesel exhaust fluid storage units.

Subsequent inspections in August uncovered that the company had yet to resolve the default even after nearly seven years.

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Saudi dairy company Fondomonte ceases water pumping in far west Arizona