Foreign-owned farms are siphoning precious water from the American Southwest’s supply as a historic drought jeopardizes the region’s future.
The drought comes as states such as Nevada and Arizona grow to populations they’ve never supported before in their histories.
The two states contain much of the hot and dry Mohave and Sonoran deserts.
The state of Arizona leases farmland to a Saudi-owned agricultural company, which grows alfalfa, at the cost of more than $3 million a year to the state, according to estimates cited by Arizona PBS.
“They pay about 86 thousand dollars a year. Some reports show that the water could be worth up to three to four million dollars a year that they are putting on the field every year,” Rob O’Dell wrote.
Residents of Arizona’s La Paz County have also seen an Emirati-owned farming company gut the local groundwater supply with commercial alfalfa growing, according to CNN.
Both companies use the water resources to grow alfalfa used to feed their cows in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia itself banned the domestic production of crops such as alfalfa in 2018, according to CNN — citing a destructive impact on the nation’s water supply.
American states such as Arizona don’t restrict foreign corporations from making such use of water resources, and residents of small communities are left with an uncertain water future as foreigners help themselves to groundwater wells.
Price hikes on water have already forced some domestic Arizona farmers to give up farms tended by their families for generations, according to CNBC.
The life-giving resource has seen its water supply drain considerably in the drought, which some experts frame as having begun at the start of the century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The foreign alfalfa growers are sourcing their water from groundwater rather than the Colorado River, but the precarious water situation doesn’t leave much to be given away.
Residents of the region are calling the trend of foreign-owned businesses siphoning away limited water resources as a poison to communities and local agriculture.
“We are literally exporting our economy overseas,” Cynthia Campbell, water resources management adviser for the city of Phoenix, said of the water security developments affecting La Paz County, according to CNN.
“I’m sorry, but there’s no Saudi Arabian milk coming back to southern California or Arizona. The value of that agricultural output is not coming through in value to the U.S.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.