/ Modified oct 3, 2023 10:42 a.m.

Hobbs Terminates Fondomonte Lease to Protect Arizona Water

Critics of Fondomonte LLC say the company has been allowed to exploit Arizona’s water laws.

Alfalfa field An alfalfa field in Marana, AZ bordered by I-10. September 2023
Christopher Conover, AZPM

Arizona’s State Land Department is terminating the lease of a Saudi Arabian company that has come under criticism for exporting the state’s dwindling water supply.

Fondomonte Arizona LLC has four leases of land in western Arizona’s Butler Valley that they use to grow water-intensive alfalfa. The resulting crops are then exported to Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to grow alfalfa due to its water use.

Since there are no restrictions on the amount of groundwater the company can pump from the aquifer under the land, critics say this has allowed a foreign nation to essentially export Arizona’s water.

Governor Katie Hobbs announced the termination of one of these leases yesterday, in a move that she said will “protect Arizona’s water future.” She also said the state will not renew the remaining leases when they expire in February 2024.

In a news release, the Governor’s Office said that Fondomonte was given notice and opportunity to address “numerous defaults” under its Butler Valley leases as early as 2016.

An inspection in August found that Fondomonte had not addressed these issues for nearly seven years. Hobbs said that this default on the leases allowed the state to terminate one of the contracts.

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