Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban, although the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. It would be the fourth INA created under the state's groundwater management act. And so I don't have the ability to project out what might happen 50, 100 years from now.". The water wars have begun. A farm includes livestock, dairy, poultry, fish, fruit, and truck farms. Agriculture easily qualifies, even if the crops are shipped out of state for profit. Still, despite these benefits, farmers use CIMIS data on only 5 percent of irrigated cropland in California, the U.S.’s leading agricultural state. Nearby residents are calling for the state to stop issuing well permits because their wells are going dry. It wouldn't take much to have a big impact — if farmers could boost water efficiency by just 4 percent, that would increase the amount of water for cities and businesses by 50 percent. "We could and should argue about ... what should be on that list," he says. Starting a landscaping business can be expensive, but farmers who want to opt for a greener path … They can send the water from underground drainage pipes into wetlands rather than straight into streams. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team at environment.azcentral.com and @azcenvironment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Peacock was more open than other farms in sharing information. It defines what streams or wetlands are considered waters of the U.S., and thus covered by the Clean Water Act. Some farmers do this; many do not. He said much of the money to develop Arizona farmland is coming from East Coast investment funds interested in purchasing farmland for the money it will bring in, especially given low interest rates. As it's pumped out, the scant rain that falls on the desert isn't enough to recoup the losses. "The point is, there needs to be a list.". “It hit just all of sudden, just like less than a year,” Watson said. Look hard and you can see the pivots marooned in the desert like a shipwreck. It’s not only the corporate farms that are profiting from Arizona’s underground water. And we could farm less,” he said. “Anybody can come out here and literally rape the valley of its water. In spite of an ongoing drought and scorching temperatures, Western farmers continue to produce food, while also cutting their water use. Studies show that by using drip irrigation, farmers can conserve up to 60% of the water that it would normally take to irrigate their crops using other systems of irrigation. "Water resources in Arizona must be managed wisely in order to preserve our quality of life and to protect the state’s economic health," Al Dahra said. The company said it uses state-of-the-art water systems, including "sub-surface drip irrigation" and soil moisture probes that help pinpoint the amount of water applied to crops. Rhodes, who once hoped to build tens of thousands of new homes in parts of Mohave County, began blading desert, drilling wells and installing center pivots to farm hay and other crops for export. So it’s just scary. Introduction 2. “It boggles the mind how many trees are out here.”. Farmers already use too much water due to its underpricing, so any additional policies that lead to more water use would compound this market failure. With farmers applying less water thanks to conservation efforts, “they’ll be recharging less groundwater,” Runsten explained, “which means that we’ll have to do that consciously.” That may mean selectively flooding fields with surface water during the winter or in wet years, allowing more to filter down into the underground reservoirs. “If the damn state, pardon my French, and the county do not stop handing out commercial well permits like your Christmas candy, us homeowners are going to be screwed,” she said. “They really couldn’t make any money growing alfalfa,” he said. “This is a major, major deal for this county," said Claire Miller, who lives near several farms. "We were taking an already approved project that had failed and we're using the water for ag purposes now," Tackett-Hicks said. “Fondomonte being a foreign company that is here taking our water, that doesn't rub well … with the residents that are out here,” said Holly Irwin, the La Paz County supervisor who represents the area. She said concerns about water use are overblown because the property had already been approved by Mohave County for a housing project and was given a 100-year assured water supply of 13,000 acre-feet annually by the state. SE, Ste. 300 Bellevue, WA 98005 (CA#: 0378-0). “It’s still water extraction for farming,” she said. And there's no law making it mandatory. Water rights are property rights, but their holders do not own the water itself. In Kingman, as in most of rural Arizona, there are no rules on groundwater pumping. Rhodes declined to comment when reached by phone. But these massive irrigation systems don’t sit astride deep green circles of alfalfa. "It has been pretty much a free-for-all," Wulf said. "The Hyder area can support row crops, produce and permanent crops," he said. He said the companies buy the farms with investors' money and rent it out, with the hope of keeping 5% for the company and returning about 5% to investors. It is also in line with the Saudi government direction toward conserving local resources.”. In Iowa, meanwhile, the water utility for the city of Des Moines is facing a threat to its existence because it picked a regulatory fight with the state's farmers. They say that cooperative, voluntary programs will achieve more than regulation. Almarai’s subsidiary, Fondomonte, owns much of the land east of Vicksburg Road to the mountains separating Vicksburg from Salome. All have at least one thing in common: They take as much water as they want, with no limits. But well drilling records show these farms own more than 700 wells and collectively have drilled more than 200 wells deeper than 1,000 feet, allowing them to draw down aquifers more quickly and dry up shallower wells. Farmers must be especially intuitive when rainfall levels do not meet the desired or necessary quota for a particular season. His wife, Trixie Skousen, said she fully expects their corporate neighbors will squeeze what they can out of their investments and then leave once there is no more money to be made. They possess the right to use it. hide caption. "It's a horrible, horrible rule," he said. A federal study showed that in 2011 groundwater pumping in the Hualapai Basin surrounding Kingman exceeded the rate of recharge by 5,600 acre-feet annually. How is this possible? The company did not answer other detailed questions about its wells and how much water it uses. Driving Stockton Hill Road north out of Kingman, the road drops down to the desert floor. These pumps can supply water around the farm from a reliable source, either dam or bore without any requirement for wind. Combined, the seven companies own, farm or control more than 130,000 acres across the state. It owns and leases enough land to cultivate as much as 44,000 tons of hay per year. With more than 37,000 acres in the Willcox area, Riverview LLP, a Minnesota dairy, may be the largest corporate farmer in the state and the farm with the most wells. In recent years, farmers have fought any hint of stricter regulation. The Arizona Republic identified major agricultural water users through interviews with residents, growers and public officials across the state, through property records and well data. Last week, President Trump ordered a formal review of the Clean Water Rule, and his remarks made clear where he stood. The company is the fifth largest employer in La Paz County, Rose said, and 102 of its employees live in company housing. But you can export virtual water.”. They can plant wide, grassy "filter strips" along stream banks. Al Dahra said it has about 170 employees in Arizona. There will always be somebody who will talk about the way you … A group of California farmers did the unexpected this year: They beat their water conservation goals. Sludge is also an effective soil conditioner, as it is a good source of organic matter. Wulf declined to say how much water is used annually. Though not all of that land is irrigated, if it were, it would equal nearly 15 percent of the harvested cropland in Arizona, as tallied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “They come in with a big idea and sell to their investors, the investors put money in it, then they lose everything and they move on,” she said. Groundwater studies by state and federal scientists have shown a dramatic increase in pumping since the agricultural businesses arrived. Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. On the way out to the dry Red Lake, where the dirt is so red it once stood in for the surface of Mars in a Hollywood movie, there is a peculiar sight. This publication explains how the federal tax laws apply to farming. “From the get-go they wanted to do things right,” Tackett-Hicks said. Farms from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates doing just that have angered residents in the La Paz County communities of Vicksburg, Salome and Wenden. With tens of thousands of cattle and the company insisting on growing all of the food on its land, "you are talking a lot of water,” she said. Oregon’s water resources are publicly owned, and in great demand. IFC declined to comment, citing a policy of not disclosing non-public information. “These aren’t local farmers. "Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad.". The huts are arranged in rows that are longer than football fields. Requirements of Farm. Integrated Ag was created in 2012 and is headquartered in Scottsdale. The round circles of bright green crops created by Riverview's 200 center-pivot irrigation systems fall away from the road as Kansas Settlement slices north and south through the area. One study found that shading from solar modules produced lettuce crop weight equal to or greater than lettuce grown in full sun. Some farmers do this; many do not. Riverview offered to contribute money toward a new water system being proposed for the residents close to its farm, Wulf said. Access to the farm is strictly limited, with visitors required to go through security. Even though the water runs through your property, it doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to everyone in Oregon. Life insurance issued by Farmers New World Life Insurance Company, a Washington domestic company: 3120 139 th Ave. “The farms started leveling all the land, and it was very alarming to a huge number of us who were really appalled at the size of these projects.”. I want to sell, that’s it.”. The pivots look as out of place as the green alfalfa once did next to the red dirt from the dry saline lake. The company has at least 81 wells, and 34 of those are deeper than 1,000 feet. With no power lines to the area, the company had to use diesel generators. Water troughs with low usage need to be flushed out periodically as evaporation will lead to a … Mohave County Supervisor Gary Watson said Rhodes and other investors essentially bought up most of the private properties they could in the Red Lake area to get the water underneath them. Wulf said the dairy would like to be a part of the water solution in Willcox and is supportive of water regulation in Arizona, though he couldn't say the exact rules he wants enacted. Kingman Mayor Jen Miles said orchard crops like pistachios also use much less water than alfalfa, which was planted on other farms north of Kingman. They use different strategies to protect themselves financially from unpredictable changes in the markets. Many farm groups say they are working hard to reduce pollution caused by runoff from farms. They can plant "cover crops," making sure that there's always vegetation on their fields to capture nitrates before that pollution runs into streams. "The bottom line was just, sorry, we don't have jurisdiction to help you," Babbitt said. Two years ago, the utility sued several nearby counties, demanding that they reduce nitrate levels in the water that flows from farm drainage systems into the Racoon River, which supplies drinking water to Des Moines. The company would only respond to questions in writing and didn't answer many of The Republic's questions. "We chose this area because of its great growing conditions and abundant sustainable water.". “You almost feel helpless because we can’t get anything passed legislatively,” Cobb said, because legislators are scared regulation in one area will spread to other areas. Yet the people responsible for that pollution, America's farmers, are fighting any hint of regulation to prevent it. She said fields have appeared in the desert to the east and north of their home during the past three or four years. Mary Goodman lives to the southwest of Al Dahra’s fields in Wenden that are rented from IFC. Instead these ghost pivots sit on weeds and land that the desert has reclaimed. Peacock Nuts, a consortium that includes the largest permanent crop nursery in the United States, has even bigger plans: 4,500 acres and as many as 650,000 pistachio trees. Bill Stowe isn't buying Klein's explanation. Iowa's farm organizations have attacked the lawsuit. Growing crops that are appropriate to the region’s climate is another way … “These funds are buying up farm ground,” Hancock said, adding that farm real estate is seen as a good investment. Michael Timony, a partner in Integrated Ag, said the company has invested $90 million in farmland and irrigation improvements in Arizona. She already had to replace one well on her property. Rose said the company has spent $152 million in Arizona and employs 178 people. Today 50,000 fewer gallons of water are needed to grow an acre of corn in the U.S., compared to 20 years ago. Almonds and alfalfa (cattle feed) use … Its deepest well is nearly 2,500 feet deep. That’s brought companies from California, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to rural areas throughout the state seeking to exploit Arizona’s underground resource. The big trucks vary in what kind of mileage they get because most farm trucks are pulling heavy loads. She said the farms don’t care about Arizona or the Hyder community. Before the farms came in, Mohave County had virtually no large-scale agriculture. Jarad Klein, the bill's sponsor, denies that he's trying to get rid of the water works because of that lawsuit; he says he has heard a variety of concerns about the utility's management. The state Department of Water Resources has already rejected this, effectively saying pumping hasn't drained enough water out of the aquifer to meet the standards to create a new INA. Several companies behind the project went bankrupt and the pivots were left in the desert to rust. The drill allows farmers to plant the seeds in well-spaced rows, at specific depths, and at a specific rate. "It's the biggest water grab in Australia's history," one farmer in the ABC program said. She’s seen new industrial wells appear off of Highway 60, along with two large irrigation ponds, which they’ve heard can hold 25 million gallons each. He'd start with those grassy buffer strips along streams. Surface water source would invoke other Non Drinking Water regulations. ProPublica's “Killing the Colorado” series examines a 139-year-old water law that pushes ranchers to use as much water as they … “It varies between 4.5 and 6 miles per gallon, depending on the load, and whether they have very many hills to climb,” he said. You want to ensure that you are maximizing your space and the land you have worked to cultivate. There's stories about people getting sick.". Why are crops like cotton grown in Australia? All she has managed to get is a study of groundwater conditions in Mohave and La Paz counties. They also have the capacity to pump water to considerable heights. Riverview produces the majority of the food for its cattle on its properties, growing wheat, silage corn and alfalfa. Once, it farmed thousands of acres of alfalfa and other crops by using towering center-pivot irrigation systems that created circular green islands in the brown desert on the way out to Red Lake. Large open-sided metal structures house thousands of stacks of hay and there are more structures than one can count. Top 10 Common Law Drainage Problems Between Rural Neighbours He said drip irrigation is also good for organic farming and the company tries to keep its farming organic whenever possible. Total coliform, nitrate testing most likely. It takes about 26 gallons of water to produce one ear of corn while it takes about 2000-2500 gallons of water … Many farmers also need water to engage in the cultivation of livestock and other animals. The farms scaled back operations because of the expense of getting the water out, Watson said. 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