Hobbs says Mayes can't simply end a Saudi water deal

Published: Thursday, March 2, 2023 - 11:34am

While running for attorney general, Democrat Kris Mayes vowed to undo a state land lease that provides free groundwater to a Saudi Arabian alfalfa grower. Gov. Katie Hobbs now says that’s easier said than done.

On Sept. 19, Mayes told 12News she was planning imminent action on the Saudi water deal, which uses land in La Paz County to grow alfalfa that’s then shipped to the Middle East.

But on Tuesday, Hobbs said nothing was in the works.

“It’s a very complex issue, and not something that the AG has the authority to, frankly, do on her own,” Hobbs told reporters. “It’s a complicated lease that we can’t just end.”

Mayes has said she believes the Saudis’ use of Arizona farmland and water are illegal. And Hobbs described the Saudi deal as a “water poaching loophole” in her State of the State address.

But Hobbs told reporters that simply breaking the lease could put the state at risk of violating its contract with the Saudis. Addressing the Saudi lease “needs to be done in a comprehensive way that doesn’t put the state in jeopardy of violating a legal contract,” Hobbs added.

Hobbs said it’s also unclear how much groundwater would be spared if the lease were broken.

“There’s also a huge amount of land over and above the lease that they actually own, so the impact of just ending that lease is not going to decrease their use of water by that much,” she said.

Politics Water