Water Usage Efficiency in Factory Farming and Housing

I am in Arizona these days and watching the state and local area scramble to get developments approved before the Federal Agency in charge of the Colorado River water decides who gets what. I suspect if you have an approved Build, a state will be allowed to build it. The Feds have applied the new restricts and the counties have to show they have a 100-year water supply. Interesting maneuvering in this story.

Outside of Phoenix sits a farm. The farm is owned by Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy. The dairy Almarai uses the land to grow hay or alfalfa for dairy cows back in Arabia.

The dairy company Almarai bought the farm in 2014 and has planted thousands of acres of alfalfa. Alfalfa is a ground water- guzzling crop. Dairy farms like Alfalfa because of its high protein content and digestible fiber. It is excellent feed for high-producing dairy cows. It is also used for beef cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. Alfalfa hay is a widely used protein.

Why come to the US for alfalfa? Saudi Arabia can’t grow its own hay anymore because they drained their own aquifer. They also know the US is too stupid to mind its resources in the same manner as Saudi Arabia black mails the US for oil. Rather than allowing the lease or renting of the land, the US allowed Almarai to buy 15 square miles of Arizona desert. They also lease land elsewhere too.

NYT reports: Arizona’s water is running low. The worst drought in more than a millennium has left many communities across the state with dry wells. The state is itself is also depleting what remains of its groundwater. Much of it going to private companies at little cost, including Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company.

Thanks to more scrutiny this year by state politicians, water activists and journalists; the Saudi agricultural giant Almarai has emerged as an unlikely antagonist in the water crisis. The company, through its subsidiary Fondomonte, has been buying and leasing land across western Arizona since 2014. This year The Arizona Republic published a report showing that the Arizona State Land Department has also been leasing 3,500 acres of public land to Almarai for a suspiciously low price.

It is easy to blame a foreign company who is buying or leasing land to grow alfalfa, etc. You have to look a little bit deeper than this.

For the City of Maricopa, AZ and the greater Phoenix AZ area, it is important for both to keep up with the supply and demand for housing, whether it’s buying or renting. With more and more people relocating to the Southwest, there is extreme pricing pressure resulting from supply not matching demand. Some is realistic and some is contrived.

Right now, the area is in a bit of a slump. Not as bad as a decade or so ago. However, there are many empty lots waiting to be built up with houses. One builder has most of his allotment built out. The rest are waiting on interest rates to decrease and an increasing demand resulting from lower rates. The concentration is to build more housing, apartments, condos, and single-family homes. You can hear this here: “City Council Regular Meeting on 2022-03-01 7:00 PM,” granicus.com.

One of the proposed solutions to lower costs and get homes to market faster is to reduce some of the processes for development approval. One example is cutting public meetings which allow residents to offer their input.  Another is circumventing zoning regulations which are usually in place for good reasons. Setbacks from endangered areas are one good example.

I have found much of the cost involved is in building practices. If you walk through the build sites, you can see pounds of nails scattered throughout the development. Dumpsters dropped on sidewalks and driveways cracking the cement. The process of a build appears to be disjoined with no direction of one step after another. Then when the house is supposed complete, there are still the issues which the builder missed and which required Labor to come back and fix.

All of this takes time. Rather than attack certain elements most builders distain. Why not fix the items a builder should have fixed from the start and deliver a “completed” house sooner. Phoenix area inspector reveals in some newly built homes some obvious defects. Leaks, crooked windows, water heaters not connected, etc.

To tie this back to water usage? “When considering the construction of new housing from a water consumption standpoint, Tenney said that high-density housing is the right choice. Such projects, like apartment complexes or duplexes, mean smaller lots, which reduces the amount of outdoor water use. 

‘Outdoor water consumption is the biggest element of household water demand,’ Tenney said. 

This reduced demand, coupled with advancements in indoor water infrastructure like more efficient plumbing, helps conserve water.”

While the density of Apartments uses less land. Apartments and single-family houses do not have the more efficient plumbing. Better plumbing is not something builders invest in in homes. Pipes either in the attic or in the slab, are uninsulated. Faucets and toilets are not the more efficient versions. Clothes washers are not the most efficient. Dishwashers are average. Apartments could be even more efficient.

Arizona’s housing crisis goes hand-in-hand with the state’s water and heat crises, (azmirror.com)

Maricopa city manager focused on supply and demand for housing, pinalcentral.com

Corporate Welfare for Farmers Is Swell until It’s Not: The Case of Arizona Reservoirs, Dollar Collapse

Saudi Hay Farm In Arizona Tests State’s Supply Of Groundwater, The Salt, NPR

Opinion | A Saudi Arabian Dairy Giant in Siphoning Off Arizona’s Groundwater, nytimes.com