RENO — Cloud seeding operations will continue throughout the state thanks to the support of regional governments and water authorities.
On Tuesday, the Desert Research Institute (DRI) announced it had earned a $155,000 grant from the Truckee River Fund, created by Truckee Meadows Water Authority to protect and enhance water quality and water resources, plus an additional $100,000 contribution from the Western Regional Water Commission. The money pays for the operation of five cloud-seeding generators west of Lake Tahoe.
“We estimate that cloud seeding has augmented snow water an average of about 18,000 acre-feet for the Tahoe-Truckee region during the last 13 years that we’ve been operating the program. That’ s enough to supply about 40,000 households with water annually,” said Arlen Huggins, director of the DRI Cloud Seeding Program.
Last year, Huggins and his colleagues seeded 56 weather events (due to optimal seeding conditions last winter), with an estimated increase of about 20,000 acre-feet of snow water, or nearly 6.6 billion gallons.
“At a cost of about $10 per acre foot of water you can’ t pass up the opportunity to add water to the Truckee River Basin,” said John Breternitz, Washoe County commissioner and TMWA board member.
In addition to the operations in the Sierra, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is sponsoring a program in northeast Nevada at $292,802 for seven generators in the Ruby Mountains. This is the second year for the SNWA funded program.
And the Bureau of Reclamation and the Walker River Irrigation District approved a five-year project at $1.5 million to seed in the Walker River Basin. The project will start this winter and run through 2015.
Cloud seeding has been conducted in the Sierra Nevada since the 1950s and in the Lake Tahoe area since the 1960s. As a form of weather modification, wintertime cloud seeding is aimed at enhancing snowfall in mountainous regions to increase the snowpack, resulting in more spring runoff and water supplies to the surrounding areas.
DRI scientists have played a major role in cloud seeding research and a specific DRI evaluation method using ultra trace chemical analysis of snow samples continues to be applied in ongoing research and operational seeding projects in Nevada, California, Colorado, Wyoming and Australia.
TMWA created The Truckee River Fund in 2004 for projects that protect and enhance water quality or water resources of the Truckee River and its watershed. The fund requires a minimum 25 percent match from requesting organizations.