Arizona has taken a stand on irresponsible groundwater use, canceling the lease of Saudi-owned farm Fondomonte, which had essentially unrestricted access to Arizona water supplies.
After the farm violated lease terms, the Associated Press reported, the state determined that Fondomonte would no longer have unchecked access to groundwater for its alfalfa farms and that three more similar leases under the company’s name would also not be renewed next year.
As the AP reported, the office of Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs said the “excessive amounts of water” being pumped from the land was “unacceptable.” It is especially troubling for a state that has seen increased drought in recent years as a result of global heating.
In the five years from 2018 to 2022, the Arizona Department of Resources recorded “exceptional drought” in at least some areas.
Since 2000, there have been 18 years in which at least some level of extreme drought was recorded in the state.
In extreme drought conditions, water shortages and major crop and pasture losses are expected, while exceptional drought conditions increase the risk of wildfires and lead to water shortages in reservoirs, streams, and wells, as well as “widespread” crop and pasture losses.
The water in Butler Valley, where Fondomonte has been operating, is critical to the state, as the law allows water to be pumped from the area to other places of need, including cities like Phoenix that often face water supply issues.
Drought conditions are a continuing problem, with 6% of Arizona still experiencing extreme drought as of early October 2023, according to a local news tweet.
The World Health Organization has noted that drought can have an impact in terms of increased risk of respiratory conditions, with dust storms more likely and smoke from wildfires making air quality significantly worse.
According to the WHO, rising temperatures from global heating are making drier regions drier. For an already dry area like Arizona, this is a troubling trend.
Water preservation is vital, but tackling the root cause of extreme heat is necessary to prevent the further short- and long-term damage droughts can cause.
Human-related air pollution is one of the key drivers of global heating, so moving away from dirty fuel, cutting meat consumption, and recycling are small but helpful ways to prevent the volumes of harmful, planet-warming gases we produce annually.
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