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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Scott Matheson picked a hot, dry day to pitch his plan for Utah water security.
Standing in the sweltering sun Monday morning, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said the state's threatened water supply is every bit as vital today as it was in settling the Salt Lake Valley more than 150 years ago.
"We don't know if the drought is in its sixth and final year or we're halfway to the end of it. We have no idea at this point. The one thing we can do is plan for conservation development," he said.
Matheson released a 13-page proposal on how he would keep Utah's water supply plentiful and safe as the state continues to fight through the drought. He addressed topics ranging from increasing conservation plans to maintaining water rights and ensuring they are used productively.
"Up to now, the public response I think has been a positive one. We just need to take and build on those conservation efforts," he said.
Matheson held a short news conference next to City Creek, the early irrigation source in settling the valley.
Utah has come a long way since the pioneer era, but water levels in modern reservoirs as well as natural water supplies have been dropping during the drought, which continues despite a good year of snow in the mountains.
Matheson said the state's 1/16th cent sales tax should continue to go toward water funding. His policy suggests reviewing whether the $17.5 million cap on tax money going to water projects should remain.
Higher rates from taxpayers may also be necessary, Matheson said.
"They may have to go up some. We're talking about a limited resource in the state of Utah," Matheson said.
Matheson is running against Republican Jon Huntsman Jr. in the November election. Huntsman unveiled his water plan in April and advocates lifting the cap on tax money for water projects.
"We believe all the money should be allocated to water projects," Huntsman campaign manager Jason Chaffetz said Monday. "We're not limiting growth. We shouldn't limit the number of dollars that go into projects."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)