March 17, 2023 – The Bureau of Reclamation agreed yesterday to fund cloud seeing efforts to bolster Colorado River water supplies. The $2.4 million project will be spread out over two years and administered by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
The Colorado Sun reports that “funding will go toward upgrading manual generators to ones that can be remotely operated and using planes to seed clouds in key parts of the Upper Colorado River Basin.” One of the challenges is a shortage of generators.
Cloud seeding is a process of artificially inducing precipitation from clouds by introducing substances into them that act as nuclei for the condensation of water droplets. The goal is to increase the amount of precipitation that falls from the clouds, and thus to enhance rainfall or snowfall. According to the Colorado Sun, “Numerous studies indicate cloud seeding can add 5% to 15% more precipitation from storm clouds. Contractors work with states to estimate how much ends up in water supplies.”
Cloud seeding can be done in a variety of ways, including dropping chemicals or flares from aircraft or using ground-based generators to release substances into the atmosphere. Commonly used substances for cloud seeding are silver iodide, potassium iodide, and dry ice. The idea behind cloud seeding is that these substances provide a surface on which water vapor can condense, forming droplets that are large enough to fall as precipitation. By introducing these substances into clouds that would otherwise not produce precipitation, cloud seeding can increase rainfall or snowfall in an area.
Opponents to cloud seeding say that studies have found little or no evidence of its effectiveness and that there are potential environmental impacts and unintended consequences, such as altering weather patterns in unintended ways. Given its current willingness to grant money into cloud seeding, the Bureau of Reclamation may see more benefits than problems with cloud seeding.