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Saudi Arabian Farming Moving to Southern California For the Water

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Saudi Arabia is going to stop growing a famously water-needy crop to feed their cattle

California's cutting back hard on residential water use as its years-long drought drags on, with mandatory restrictions and hefty fines in the thousands of dollars for big water wasters. But the state is still not in straits as dire as those of, say, Saudi Arabia.

In an effort to conserve water, Saudi Arabia is going to stop growing water-intensive alfalfa in its own country over the next three years. But, since it still needs to feed its cows, it's looking to droughty Southern California and its farmland (which must look not-entirely-parched by comparison) to help keep the crop coming in, the Associated Press reports.

Almarai, the largest dairy company in Saudi Arabia, bought land at the beginning of the year that "roughly doubled its holdings in California’s Palo Verde Valley," an area that's about a two-hour drive east of the Salton Sea and right along the Arizona border. It's an area that "enjoys first dibs" on sweet, sweet water from the nearby Colorado River.

The dairy company purchased 1,790 acres for $31.5 million; they'd bought 2,000 acres in the same area last year. This all falls in to a push for water conservation in Saudi Arabia that's translated into a ban on certain crops—this year Saudi Arabia will stop growing its own wheat. If there's one thing to be grateful for in this continuing drought (at least, continuing in SoCal), it's that we in California still haven't gotten to that level of water rationing yet. Yet.