Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Shipping U.S. Water To Saudi Arabia

As we've noted elsewhere this is an example of what the hydrology pros call 'virtual water'.
From the AP via Yahoo:

Saudi land purchases fuel debate over US water rights
Saudi Arabia's largest dairy will soon be unable to farm alfalfa in its own parched country to feed its 170,000 cows
Saudi Arabia's largest dairy company will soon be unable to farm alfalfa in its own parched country to feed its 170,000 cows. So it's turning to an unlikely place to grow the water-chugging crop — the drought-stricken American Southwest.

Almarai Co. bought land in January that roughly doubled its holdings in California's Palo Verde Valley, an area that enjoys first dibs on water from the Colorado River. The company also acquired a large tract near Vicksburg, Arizona, becoming a powerful economic force in a region that has fewer well-pumping restrictions than other parts of the state.

The purchases totaling about 14,000 acres enable the Saudis to take advantage of farm-friendly U.S. water laws. The acquisitions have also rekindled debate over whether a patchwork of regulations and court rulings in the West favors farmers too heavily, especially those who grow thirsty, low-profit crops such as alfalfa at a time when cities are urging people to take shorter showers, skip car washes and tear out grass lawns.

"It flies in the face of economic reason," said John Szczepanski, director of the U.S. Forage Export Council. "You've taken on all of the risk a farmer has. The only way you can justify that is that they're really not trying to make a profit. They're trying to secure the food supply."

For decades, Saudi Arabia attempted to grow its own water-intensive crops for food rather than rely on farms abroad. But it reversed that policy about eight years ago to protect scarce supplies.
To further conserve water, the country has adopted bans on selected crops. This year, the kingdom will no longer produce wheat. In December, the government announced the country will stop growing green fodder, livestock feed derived from crops like alfalfa, over the next three years....

Jan. 27
Saudi Arabia buying up farmland in Southwestern U.S.

See also:
"PNAS Study: Population Growth Will be Constrained by the Limits of Trading Virtual Water (Food)"
California Drought: Why Farmers Are 'Exporting Water' to China
A Look At A Second Water Focused Hedge Fund
A Look at the World's First Water-focused Hedge Fund