THIS NOVEMBER, VOTERS IN Tucson, Ariz., weigh in on a bill that ostensibly would repeal a monthly $14 garbage pickup fee, but could also create a moratorium on building permits. The measure is called the Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights, as the fee is applied to Tucson Water customers. The initiative would also prohibit “toilet-to-tap” reclaimed water from being used as drinking water.

The Central Arizona Project (CAP), which manages water distribution via a 336-mile canal between Lake Havasu, Nev., and Tucson, allots 135,966 acre-feet of water annually to Tucson Water, according to CAP's Web site as of Jan. 1, 2007. The utility currently delivers 127,000 acre-feet of potable water, or 137,000 when effluent is included. The bill would cap Tucson Water's fresh-water allotment at 140,000 acre-feet.

Tucson's business community sees this measure as an antigrowth maneuver, says Carol Zimmerman, co-owner of the public relations firm Zimmerman & Associates, who fielded questions on the community's behalf. Zimmerman disputes estimates by the Southern Arizona HBA's government liaison Lori Lustig that this bill would allow only 9,000 more new homes to be connected to Tucson Water. But she agrees it would have “a chilling effect on growth,” and plays on local residents' fears about access to water from the Colorado River. Those fears, she contends, are unfounded because a seven-state agreement that's triggered when the river is deemed to be in shortage has safeguards that guarantee a steady flow of water into Tucson for at least 15 years.

Still, if this bill passes, Zimmerman foresees home builders going outside of the utility's periphery to areas where ground water can be pumped. She adds that this measure would sidetrack efforts by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council's year-long effort to devise a growth plan. “All this bill does is say ‘No'.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Tucson, AZ.