$2.4 Million Federal Grant for Cloud Seeding in the Upper Colorado River Basin

Luke Guilford | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Cloud seeding operation
Eric Hjermstad, co-owner of cloud seeding operations company Western Weather Consultants, looks at the flame atop one of his generators near Wolcott, Colorado. Photo Credit: Aspen Public Radio

Last week, The Southern Nevada Water Authority voted to accept a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in Western states whose rivers feed the Upper Colorado River BasinThe weather modification method utilizes planes and cannons to launch silver iodide crystals into clouds. This process attracts moisture to the particles that fall as snow and rain.

Upper Colorado River Basin
The Upper Colorado River Basin. Photo Credit: usgs.gov

The upper Colorado River Basin covers southwest Wyoming, the western half of Colorado, the eastern half of Utah, the northeast corner of Arizona, and a small northwest portion of New Mexico. Notable rivers in the region include the Green River, Yampa River, White River, Colorado River, Gunnison River, Dolores River, and San Juan River.

Check out Can Bio-Precipitation and Cloud Seeding Elevate Snow Levels? – SnowBrains to learn more about cloud seeding.

The funding is to help key reservoirs as the Colorado River hit record lows and growing Western cities and industries fail to accommodate their water usage to the dwindling supplies. The federal funding will upgrade equipment from manual generators to remote-operated ones. The funding will also allow more planes to take flight and seed clouds.

Cloud seeding
Simplified diagram of the cloud seeding process. Photo Credit: dekhnews.com

Andrew Rickert, who coordinates Colorado’s cloud seeing for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, spoke with the Denver AP and said this about the challenges they face after receiving the funding.

“There’s not a lot of makers of cloud seeding generators,” he said. “Not only do we have to make sure we can find that, but that they could make as many as we need.”

Cloud seeding is not new for the Upper Colorado River Basin, Utah, and Colorado. Wyoming has nearly a decade of experience, and New Mexico has been approving permits for warm weather seeding lately. Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming have each spent around $1 million and $1.5 million yearly for cloud seeding.

According to the Denver AP, numerous studies indicate cloud seeding can add 5% to 15% more precipitation for storm clouds. Frank McDonough, a nonprofit Desert Research Institute scientist, told the Denver AP this on the legitimacy of cloud seeding.

“The research that’s come out over the last 10 years or so really seems to have convinced them that cloud seeding is a legitimate way to increase snowpack and subsequent water resources,”.

The federal funding will be dispersed over two years, temporarily doubling financial support for the Upper Colorado River Basin cloud seeding from outside parties. The consensus is that cloud seeding can only help the water supply so much, and action must be taken to reduce water usage from the over-allocated river. The difficulty with that is who reduces their use, by how much, and is it enforced? We will learn more by mid-August when the Bureau of Reclamation announces the amount of water available from the Colorado River for the following year.

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