Critics of a Nestle bottled water plant slated for west Phoenix will take their concerns to the city's water department Friday, despite warnings from the city that its hands are tied.

More than 42,500 people had signed an online petition as of Thursday night in opposition to the plant, which the company says will bottle 35 million gallons of city water a year for sale in Arizona.

"This is the desert, and we should be doing everything we can to conserve our water," said Stacey Champion, one of the leading critics of the plant.

But even Champion, an environmental consultant turned public relations professional, admits there isn't much opponents can do to put a lid on the project.

"They found a facility that had what they needed. There's no zoning ordinance changes. There's nothing that's going to put them in front of the council for any decisions," she said.

On top of that, the Phoenix Water Department is required by law to provide service to paying customers.

"We render adequate service to all customers impartially and without discrimination as required by state law," said spokesperson Stephanie Bracken.

The city also cannot limit how much water a customer uses, and says it is prohibited from releasing water usage data under state law.

"Our industrial customers pay water bills based on their consumption and according to the same rate schedule that applies to all other customers," Bracken said.

The 394,775 square-foot plant at 1635 S. 43rd Avenue was built in 2013 and has never been occupied. Nestle will spend about $35 million getting the building ready, and it will create 40 to 50 jobs in the first phase, Bracken said.

The plant will use about the same amount of water, about 300-acre feet per year, as an 18-hole golf course, according to an attorney for Nestle.

Champion, who opposes the plant, said she hopes Friday's face-to-face with the water department will start a big-picture conversation about conservation.

"There's a 100-year guaranteed supply from everything we're told. Well, I have children, so while I will be dead in 100 years, my children's children won't be," she said. "If we don't have water, we can't survive."

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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