Cloud Seeding – Milking More Moisture out of Clouds for Northern Nevada
It sounds like science fiction to those who are unfamiliar, but it’s a practice that’s been in place in Northern Nevada and the California mountains to the west for more than 25 years.
Cloud Seeding – a practice in which mountaintop generators spray particles of silver iodide into storm clouds to boot ice particle formation and snowfall – has been said to increase the snowpack that feeds the Truckee River (Reno/Sparks major water supply) by an average of about 18,000 acre-feet per year, according to an article in the Reno Gazette Journal.
According to the Desert Research Institute, over the last 15 years cloud seeding has created enough snow water to supply 140,000 households annually over the last 15 years.
Last year, a particularly dry year for the Sierra and Northern Nevada, along with much of the west, DRI estimated an increase of 21,600 acre-feet of water, according to the RGJ article.
For reference, an acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons – enough to supply two average homes for more than a year.
Funding was cut to the Desert Research Institute by the state legislature in 2009, but regional government entities, including the Truckee Meadows Water Authority and Western Water Commission are poised to pay for the process again this year.
“We feel it’s money well spent,” said Mark Foree, general manager of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. “Certainly anything that can help our snowpack is something we are interested in.”
In considering the water quality impacts on spraying silver iodide into clouds to create snow and rain, the Weather Modification Association says “There is no evidence that suggests cloud seeding creates any significant negative environmental impacts on the environment. Assessments of soil, vegetation and surface runoff haven’t shown levels of silver iodine above natural background levels.
Desert Research Institute’s cloud seeding is expanding, starting with a 3-year program in southern Nevada to boost the snowpack in the Walker River watershed.
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