State permits and monitors cloud-seeding operations |

State permits and monitors cloud-seeding operations

Bob Berwyn

Any existing or proposed cloud-seeding operations in Colorado are administered under a state weather modification permit. The state of Colorado formally recognizes that weather modification can have economic benefits and has encouraged operation, research and experimentation in the field. In addition to boosting snowfall, weather modification is used to try and reduce hail during severe storms and to suppress fog at airports.The permitting process includes safeguards and monitoring requirements, including conditions that cloud seeding be stopped if snowpack levels exceed certain percentage thresholds at various points during the winter. Proponents must show their project does not involve &quota high degree of risk of substantial harm to land, people, health, safety, property, or the environment.&quotThe Colorado Water Conservation Board administers the permits in five- and 10-year increments. A public hearing is required to show the public benefits and to examine the technical and scientific feasibility. Project operators are required to keep a daily log and make their records available to the public.Some of the potential local impacts considered in the past have included the extra costs of snow removal, traffic congestion and loss of retail trade, livestock feeding patterns, disruptions to the calving season, and changes in the planting of crops.State officials acknowledge that it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of cloud seeding. Attempts to quantify increased snowfall involve a comparison of results in the target area to precipitation in a nearby control area.Based on such measurements, some researchers assume a 10- to 15-percent increase in snowpack from ground-based winter generators is typical. Ground-based winter cloud-seeding projects in Colorado have been estimated yields of 30 to 50 acre feet of water per square mile at unit costs varying from less than $1 to $7 per acre foot.

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