The Great Arizona Water Grab

The Great Arizona Water Grab

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

A Saudi-owned farm in the middle of the Arizona desert has attracted national attention and criticism since Reveal’s Nate Halverson and Ike Sriskandarajah first broke this story eight years ago. The farm is using massive amounts of water to grow hay and export it to Saudi Arabia in the midst of a water crisis in the American West. 

Since then, megafarms have taken hold here. And the trend isn’t fueled just by foreign companies. Many people have no idea that their retirement funds are backing massive land deals that result in draining precious groundwater. Halverson uncovers that pension fund managers in Arizona knew they were investing in a local land deal, which resulted in draining down the aquifer of nearby communities. So even as local and state politicians have fought to stop these deals, their retirement fund has been fueling them.

And it’s not just happening in Arizona. Halverson takes us to Southern California, where retirement money also was invested in a megafarm deal. This time, the farm was tapping into the Colorado River to grow hay and ship it overseas. And it was happening as the federal and state governments have been trying to conserve river water.

Halverson’s investigation into water use in the West is just one slice of his reporting into a global scramble for food and water, which is featured in an upcoming documentary, “The Grab” by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite. “The Grab” will be coming soon to a theater or screen near you.  

Support Reveal’s journalism at

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at

Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Heart UK