Feds are spending $2.4 million on cloud seeding for the Colorado River

Money will temporarily double financial support for Upper Basin cloud seeding from outside parties.

(Jerry McBride | The Durango Herald via AP) Eric Hjermstad, co-owner and head of field operations at Western Weather Consultants, adjusts the amount of silver iodide released Jan. 15, 2016 near Breen, Colo. in hope to an increase in precipitation in a process called cloud seeing. The Southern Nevada Water Authority voted Thursday, March 16, 2023 to accept a $2.4 million grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in other western states whose rivers feed the parched desert region.

Denver • The Southern Nevada Water Authority on Thursday voted to accept a $2.4 million grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in other western states whose rivers feed the arid desert region.

The weather modification method uses aircraft and ground-based cannons to launch silver iodide crystals into clouds, drawing moisture to the particles that fall as additional snow and rain.

The funding comes as key Colorado River reservoirs hit record lows and booming western cities and industries failed to adjust their water use to ever-dwindling supplies.

“This money from Reclamation is wonderful, we just have to decide exactly how it will benefit us,” said Andrew Rickert, who coordinates Colorado’s cloud seeding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The federal funds will be used to upgrade manual generators to ones that can be operated remotely and to use airplanes to seed clouds in key parts of the Upper Colorado River Basin, according to documents from the Southern Nevada Water Authority for its board meeting.

Securing enough generators could be a challenge, Rickert said. “There aren’t many cloud seeding generator manufacturers out there,” he said. “We have to make sure not only that we can find that, but that they can make as many as we need.”

The Bureau of Reclamation declined to comment on the funding decision.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority said the grant, while administered by Nevada, does not exclusively benefit the state. “All will be used to sow clouds in the Upper Basin for the benefit of all users of the river,” public relations officer Corey Enus wrote via email.

In the Upper Colorado River Basin, Utah and Colorado have been seeding clouds for decades. Wyoming has nearly a decade of experience, and New Mexico recently began approving warm-weather sowing permits in the eastern part of the state.

Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming each spend between about $1 million and $1.5 million per year on cloud seeding. The Utah Legislature recently expanded its investment in cloud seeding programs in next year’s state budget, allocating more than $14 million.

Numerous studies show that cloud seeding can add 5% to 15% more precipitation from cumulonimbus clouds.

(Brittany Peterson | AP) Brothers Parker and Carver Cammans install cloud seeding equipment on Saturday, December 3, 2022 in Lyons, Colorado.

Since 2007, various groups have contributed to the overall cloud seeding budgets in these states. In 2018, several entities, including the Southern Nevada Water Authority, committed long-term funding to this effort, contributing approximately $1.5 million annually.

The reclamation bureau grant will be spread over two years, temporarily doubling the financial support for cloud vaccination of the upper basin from outside parties.

The seven states of the Colorado River Basin are still negotiating with the Bureau of Reclamation on how to save 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water — or up to about a third. The bureau is expected to release a draft proposal this month and finalize the plans by mid-August, when it typically announces the amount of water available from the Colorado River for the following year.

With a river this congested, everyone needs to use less water, especially the agricultural sector, said Kathryn Sorenson of the Kyl Center for Water Policy Think Tank.

“I think the appeal of these types of programs is that it’s easier to talk about how we’re getting more than it is to talk about who needs to use less,” she said.

The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for reporting on water and environmental policies. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2023/03/17/feds-spend-24-million-cloud/ Feds are spending $2.4 million on cloud seeding for the Colorado River

Justin Scacco

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