When Saudi-owned Fondomonte Arizona LLC began alfalfa production operations in western Arizona about eight years ago, there was a lot of pushback from both farmers and other nonfarm entities. The rally cry of “Don’t ship our water overseas” was heard frequently.

The complaints tempered somewhat in recent years, but now the alfalfa operation is back in the news. In fact, the criticism has been raised to a national level. Last week, CBS ran this story on their morning show.

The report correctly points out that Fondomonte did nothing against the law. In fact, the State of Arizona leased them some of their land and groundwater rights at the time. Now, a few local and state politicians are regretting that decision.

Of course, water from deep under the Arizona desert doesn’t come cheap. Wells and infrastructure to move the water must be built. This is not addressed in the CBS news report.

Late last week, it was reported by multiple news agencies that the state of Arizona was revoking well-drilling permits for two additional wells that Fondomonte had planned for. State officials cited “inconsistencies” in the application that had previously been approved last August.

To be sure, this is a divisive issue. Really, it’s two issues.

One is the fact that the farm is foreign operated and ships its hay back to Saudi Arabia (or other countries such as China). Of course, many Western haymakers produce product for the export market just as many other U.S. farm and nonfarm businesses produce or build products for export. All of them use water.

The other issue is an agriculture versus urban water use/need debate, and that topic permeates throughout the West. Make no mistake, the Fondomonte operation is being targeted because the city of Phoenix wants that water.

Despite a temporary reprieve offered by this past winter’s above average moisture, the Western water wars are far from over.