Cloud seeding is becoming a more important resource amid drought

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DURANGO, CO. —The ongoing drought and an early fire season makes it clear that New Mexico is in need of water. Part of the state’s water supply comes from out of state, where it’s taken from the Rocky Mountains and moved into the Rio Grande Basin.

New Mexico helps fund an ongoing effort to squeeze the most water out of Colorado, through weather modification. Although it might sound like the stuff in sci-fi movies, the General Manager at South Western Water Conservation District, Steve Wolff says it’s anything but fiction.

“Cloud seeding has been worked on since I think the late 40s so there has been lots of small studies that have been going on to large studies that were done, one in Wyoming at the beginning of the century and one in Idaho really documented that clouded seeding works,” Wolff said.

It works by making the most out of a storm.

“It’s done by inserting silver iodine into the atmosphere into those storm events into the clouds, and that silver iodine helps increase the formation of ice crystals,” said Wolff.

And that helps make it rain, in fact Wolff added that it has the potential to squeeze 5 to 15% more water out of storms.

“More water into the streams more water into the reserve, just more water available for all of us to be using, as you know given the current drought, the long term drought we have been in we are always looking for ways to come up with more water supply,” Wolff said.

Furthermore, seeding clouds is becoming more of a resource in the drought stricken west.

“I think we will see more funds go to it, more people will look at it as a serious effort, looking at the price per-acre foot of water it’s a lot cheaper than building a new dam or doing other things that we typically think of when we think of increasing water supplies,” said Wolff.

The next cloud seeding will start again this winter, when storms are more frequent.