Groundwater Drilling by Saudi-Owned Farms Has Led to the Sinking of Towns in Arizona

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Apr 24, 2024

Arizona has been grappling with the consequences of extensive groundwater drilling for several years. The effects are different across the state, with towns like Wenden bearing the brunt of the problem.

Unfortunately, corporate activities such as those of Al Dahra, an Emirati-based company, have led to the sinking of Wenden by four feet. This alarming situation has prompted concerns from Arizona’s political leaders, with many describing it as stunning and horrific for the affected residents.

McMullen Valley is Sinking

McMullen Valley, situated at the confluence of La Paz, Maricopa, and Yavapai counties, has a small population of around 3,000 people spread across communities, including Aguila, Salome, and Wenden.

Three red farm houses with several cattle in the field

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The majority of its residents, mainly farmers and retirees, once had planned to spend the rest of their lives in the valley. However, they share a common problem that has been exacerbated over the years: their land is sinking.

Governor Hobbs’ Investigates Saudi Farm

Arizona’s governor, Katie Hobbs, began investigating the sinking of the land in the state and discovered the Saudi-owned Fondomonte farm had breached its lease agreement.

An oil drill in a field in the Permian Basin in West Texas in the daytime.

Source: Zorin09/Wikimedia Commons

The investigation’s results revealed that Fondomonte had extracted substantial amounts of groundwater without restraint. This decision signaled a clear shift in the state’s approach to managing its groundwater resources.

Saudi-Owned Arizona Farm Has its Lease Revoked

Hobbs promptly terminated Fondomonte Arizona’s lease in Butler Valley after her team discovered several lease violations, including improper storage of hazardous materials.

A large tractor moves across a dirt field

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The action was deemed a win in the state’s war against unethical and unsustainable groundwater drilling and reflects Arizona’s commitment to safeguarding its natural resources and enforcing environmental compliance.

Al Dhara Continues to Drill

However, Arizona’s problems are far from resolved, as several other companies including Al Dahra continue drilling excessively for groundwater due to the state’s lax water laws.


Source: Robert Nickelsberg / Contributor/ Getty Images

The persistence of corporate activities, even after regulatory interventions that saw leases revoked, has led many to question the effectiveness of current water management policies and whether or not they should be updated.