- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A proposed $35 million water-bottling plant in Phoenix is drawing disbelief from conservationists focused on a lingering drought.

Nestle Waters last week announced plans to treat city tap water and bottle it as Pure Life branded water bottles. The proposed bottling plant is projected to use almost 35 million gallons of water in its first year filling 264 million half-liter bottles.

Phoenix officials say the city’s tap-water supply is secure for years and that they are happy to use it to attract manufacturing jobs. The bottling plant is expected to create 40 to 50 jobs.

“We have a great buffer for drought and shortage,” Water Services Director Kathryn Sorensen said.

Critics of the plant say it sends a mixed message: Phoenix residents have been encouraged to conserve water for years amid a two-decade drought, but city officials are now allowing water to be bottled away.

“There is a sort of tension between the messages to conserve water and the knowledge that a big water-bottle factory is moving in,” said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at the Morrison Institute.

Other people say the situation is humorous, if not entirely great.

“It’s certainly ironic to some degree to have a water-bottling plant in one of the driest cities in the country,” Sierra Club Arizona director Sandy Bahr said. “It’s not a good direction for Phoenix.”

Sorensen said she understands the optics of the arrangement, but that the plant’s water use would be less than one-tenth of one percent of the supply. She said this would also be Phoenix’s fourth water-bottle plant.

“Phoenix is built for drought,” she said. “If there’s one thing Phoenix knows, it’s how to manage our water resources wisely.”

Phoenix gets about 44 percent of its water from the Colorado River. Federal water managers have said there’s a chance they will have to at least temporarily reduce Arizona’s allotment in 2018.

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