Code Blue documentary exposes Saudi Arabia strategically buying up American water rights in drought stricken southwest

Coalition of veterans who are lawmakers call to ban foreign governments from extracting American water

Code Blue – Water Security Conflicts and Solutions released a documentary on Saudi Arabia buying American water rights, despite a historic 18 year drought in the region.

There are no limits on the amount of water foreign governments can extract and export. Yet, 40 out of 50 U.S. states expect water shortages in 10 years, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“Water scarcity is the single greatest threat to the future of Arizona,” said award-winning journalist Anna Therese Day and host of the documentary.

The Saudi Arabian company Almarai bought land in Arizona and California with associated water rights. They plant alfalfa – a hugely water-intensive crop. Then the alfalfa is shipped to Saudi Arabia to feed 170,000 cows.

Saudi Arabia’s practice of purchasing U.S. water rights is the second video in Code Blue’s planned series.

“We would never allow a foreign government that has a history of war crimes to buy American land and extract unlimited oil, yet this happens every day in the form of water – an even more valuable strategic resource,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, president of Elected Officials to Protect America, Marine veteran and former state representative.  

“To protect our people and water, Elected Officials to Protect America calls on congress to pass a law that prevents foreign governments from extracting unsustainable water resources,” said Cornell du Houx. “Water security is national security.”

Elected Officials to Protect America is a nonpartisan network of lawmakers, led by lawmakers who are also veterans, focused on environmental and education and policy.

In 2016 the Saudi’s stopped their wheat harvest and are phasing out all cattle feed production as they have lost 80 percent of their groundwater under the Saudi peninsula in the past 50 years.

The Middle East is in a constant drought, that has been the most severe in 900 years.  

Saudi Arabia has strategically come to the United States, to buy up water rights in areas that have little or no water regulations.   

“Arizona is ground zero for water security,” said Arizona State Representative Kristen Engel. “We’re facing it front and center. We’re a desert state that’s grown very fast…there’s even more pressures on our water resources.”

Saudi Arabia’s Almarai purchased more than 9,800 acres in La Paz County, Arizona. Each of the wells on the property is capable of pumping more than 100,000 gallons  – extracting up to 2.3 million gallons a day.

Development and farming have contributed to the groundwater table falling by more than 50 feet in parts of La Paz County since 2010.

An 1980 Arizona law places restrictions on water extraction in Arizona’s heavily populated areas. However, La Paz County and other rural area are exempt, resulting in no extraction limits. In Arizona state regulations allow Almarai to use unlimited water as long as it goes to a beneficial use. They are also not required to report their water use.

“We have to make sure the water is taken care off,” said Claudia Hauser owner of the family farm Hauser & Hauser Farms. “Land and water go hand in hand. We have to preserve it, conserve it, make sure it’s used wisely.”

Saudi’s Almarai, also purchased 1,790 acres of land in California’s Palo Verde Valley in 2016 and 2,000 acres the previous year.

Southern California gold rush settlers secured their claim to water rights from the Colorado River in 1877, setting the legal precedence of “first in time, first in right” in the Palo Verde Valley.

With $80 million dollars invested, Saudi Arabia’s Almarai Company now owns virtually unrestricted Colorado River and Arizona groundwater extraction rights.

A major part of the documentary focuses on innovative and proven solutions to the water crisis.  

Chip Norton founded Sinagura Malt House – the first of its kind in Arizona – to create a market solution to the water crisis exacerbated by Almarai. He was successful in creating a market for craft beer.

To support the malt house, and conserve water, Hauser & Hauser Farms switched to growing more barley, which uses far less water. It’s a win-win as both the water and economic impact are kept in the state.

The origins of the Saudi initiative started in 2008, when King Abdullah launched his "Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad," which urged Saudis to go overseas and buy land.

Additional background:

Cornell du Houx founded Code Blue after he made the realization that water insecurity and climate change are inseparable.

“My deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, with the Marine Corps infantry, gave me firsthand insights into why it’s critical to find solutions to the water insecurity connected to climate change,” said Cornell du Houx. “While on patrol just outside the city, a roadside bomb hit my HUMVEE. Fortunately for us, the “military-age man” was not well trained, and most of the blast missed our vehicle. When we caught him, we learned that he was a farmer with little or no explosives experience. Because of climate change, his crops had failed. Vulnerable, he had been turned into a terrorist paid to attack Americans. For me, the connection between climate change and water insecurity became crystal clear.”

Code Blue’s first film was funded by a State Department grant on Maine’s water issues and climate change solutions. More information at codebluewater.org

Code Blue is planning to film 14 more videos. The solutions to water insecurity are out there. To bring the problems together with solutions in each video of the documentary series can give communities around the globe pathways to a more secure and safe future.

Code Blue’s statement: “We are committed to protecting our planet and resources.  As the world heats up with climate change, the increasing lack of fresh water is causing conflicts around the globe that are affecting our energy and food supply. But there are inspiring stories — real solutions already making a difference.

“Our short videos, and a full-length documentary, will be focused on water security as it relates to water, food and energy. We aim to inspire community action, the media, and lawmakers to protect our planet and promote water security.”

Key staff:

Anna Therese Day is an award-winning independent reporter and social media researcher. She was recently recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of their 30 Under 30 in the Media Category for 2017. Day is a Fulbright Fellow, a UN Press Fellow, and was named one of Google Zeitgeist's top 30 Great Young Minds of Our Time. The Shorty Awards for Social Media recognized her as one of the Top 10 journalists of the Year. She was selected as one of Mic.com's Millennial Leaders and contributes to The New York Times Women in the World, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, AJ+. Day became a global brand ambassador for Skype's "The Things We Can Do" English-language campaign. Anna is a partner with the Truman National Security Project and is currently reporting on how wildfires become more dangerous with climate change. In the Pacific, she has documented the life of climate refugees.

Alex Cornell du Houx was elected to the Maine House of Representatives and quickly became one of its most active members. Sponsoring and co-sponsoring 155 bills his first term, and 136 his second term. In total sponsoring 14 successful pieces of legislation and co-sponsoring 98 successful bills. Cornell du Houx co-founded Elected Officials to Protect America and Code Blue Water Security Conflicts and Solutions. He won the REED award for the best national Public Affairs Campaign for his work founding Operation Free, a coalition of veterans combating climate change with the Truman Project. Cornell du Houx participated and led State Department delegations to Southeast Asia to foster government-to-government relations, is a Huffington Post contributor, a Kentucky Colonel, a senior advisor to the Veterans Campaign, a member of the Global Advisory Council for the American Veterans Committee, Partner with the Truman National Security Project, board member with Mickie’s Mickies, the Solon Center for Research and Publishing, Fitwheelz, and founded the Maine New Leaders Council (NLC). His trainings are requested worldwide and Alex is a certified trainer with NLC and a leadership coach with ChoiceCenter Leadership University. Cornell du Houx served in the Marine Corps infantry as an assultman, for seven years and has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently a Public Affairs Officer with the Navy Reserve.

Dominic Frongillo, Former Caroline, New York Councilmember and Deputy Supervisor, founded Elected Officials to Protect New York, a bipartisan initiative uniting and coordinating over nearly 1,000 local elected officials to successfully fight high-volume hydro-fracking and achieve New York’s renewable energy goal of 50 percent by 2030. A five-time delegate to the United Nations climate negotiations, he is a Climate Reality Project Presenter trained by Al Gore and trains elected officials nationally on climate for the Young Elected Officials Network and Local Progress.