August 29, 2023

Gallego Introduces Legislation to Keep Arizona’s Water in Arizona and Crack Down on Water Abuse

PHOENIX, AZ – Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), a House Natural Resources Committee member, introduced The Domestic Water Protection Act of 2023 today. The bill would stop the abuse of water resources by foreign governments in Arizona and other drought-stricken states. 

“Arizona’s water and crops belong in Arizona–not Saudi Arabia,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “No longer should foreign governments and companies be given sweetheart deals that leave Arizonans worse off. I’m proud to lead the Domestic Water Protection Act to stop these entities from stealing our state’s water.”

The legislation would impose an excise tax on the sale and export of water-intensive crops grown by foreign companies or foreign governments in areas experiencing prolonged drought.

“As our communities in Arizona feel the intense effects of the climate crisis and prolonged drought, we are simultaneously being stripped by Saudi-owned companies of our most precious resource - our water,” said Rep. Grijalva, a cosponsor of the legislation. “Arizona Attorney General Mayes has taken positive steps to revoke well-drilling permits, but more must be done to ensure that no foreign company or government can ever take advantage of our water resources. That’s why I’m proud to join Rep. Gallego as a cosponsor of the Domestic Water Protection Act to make certain we codify protections and regulations to safeguard our groundwater in Arizona and across the nation for generations to come.”

Specifically, The Domestic Water Protection Act of 2023 directly addresses water abuse by:

  • Creating an excise tax on the sale and export of any water-intensive crop by any foreign company or government in areas experiencing prolonged drought;

  • Imposing the excise tax at a 300% rate, reflecting the unjustifiable disparity in land lease rates between domestic and foreign producers in Arizona;

  • Implementing the tax in a manner consistent with international trade agreements; and

  • Using the proceeds from the tax for a Drought Trust Fund that will finance drought response and resilience efforts.

"Rep. Ruben Gallego has shown his steadfast dedication to safeguarding Arizona's water resources by introducing the Domestic Water Protection Act,” said La Paz County Supervisor Holly Irwin. “His efforts in championing water protection initiatives resonate deeply with La Paz County. I greatly appreciate Rep. Gallego for taking the time to come to La Paz County to meet with our elected officials and his leadership representing our voice to ensure a sustainable water future for our county and the entire state."

Arizona currently leases farmland to Fondomonte, a Saudi company that uses Arizona groundwater to grow alfalfa exported to feed cows in the Middle East. Arizona’s State Land Department reports that the company uses enough water annually to supply 54,000 homes at an estimated cost to the state of $3 million to $3.9 million a year.

State leaders in Arizona have recently signaled their intention to end the deal between the state of Arizona and Fondomonte. Rep. Gallego’s legislation would ensure sweetheart deals like the Fondomonte one would not be possible in any state.

The bill builds on Rep. Gallego’s continued efforts to protect Arizona’s water. In May, Rep. Gallego introduced the Drought Related Overpricing Prevention (DROP) Act to stop outside investors from buying up scarce Western water and selling it at excess prices. 

Click here to read the text of the legislation.