US.AT 4 May 199 1/Pag 5
BuRec to investigate use in dry West
SCloud seeding wins new vote of legitimacy
WASHINGTON The water supply concept of
cloud seeding, sometimes considered just flimflam,has
been awarded a new level of legitimacy by the House'
Interior Committee. In approval of the Reclamation
States Emergency Drought Relief Act, principally
aimed at aiding drought-ravaged California, the com-
mittee has authorized the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
to investigate cloud seeding as a means for western
states to augment diminished water supplies.
Cloud seeding, or weather modification, has become
an annual experiment for many western irrigation
districts, particularly those situated on the high pahins
just east of the Rocky Mountains. During summer
months, specially-equipped aircraft typically release
nitrous oxide crystals into emerging thunderstorms as
a means of possibly increasing-precipitation from the
cloud as it maturtss In some instances, the process has
been employed during winter to increase snowfall at
higher elevations. In Arizona, there are plans to seed
clouds over mountains of the Mogollen Rim to increase
snowfall that melts into the Salt and Verde rivers.
Even as new technology is being applied, cloud seed-
ing remains anything but an exact science. Detractors
claim it is an expensive means of wringing out an inch
or two of additional rainfall each year. However, there
have been enough sporadic success stories to maintain
viability of cloud seeding across therest, particularly
during times of severe drought.
In Texas, cloud seeding to increase rainfall has been
relatively common for nearly 20 years. The Texas
Water Plan has identified weather modification as
drought strategy worthy of more study. Preliminary
studies of cloud seeding done near San Angelo, Texas
from 1986 to 1989 show that rainfall increased by 17
percent over the area where seeding was done. Similar
studies in Texas have concluded that rainfall within
cloud seeding.target areas exceeded rainfall in other
areas by 10 to 30 percent.
In passing the drought relief act, the interior com-
mittee noted that new assurances b'irfeded so oth8i
states don't fill into the "California experience." Con-.
gressman Jay Rhodes, a sponsor of the bill, noted
number of other western states face th e ; sibity '
drought within "the next year or so.* Said Rhodes of
drought, "You don't know when its coming, but you di'
know it's going to come."