Cloud-seeding: Frank Kugel — ‘There’s no other place to find water for $11 an acre-foot’

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From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

“Even if we see 10 percent increased snowfall that the consultant has projected, it’s an incredibly beneficial investment,” [Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District district manager Frank Kugel] said. “We took a long, hard look, but in the end my board felt the bang for the buck was worth it. There’s no other place to find water for $11 an acre-foot.”[…]

Water districts in Nevada, Arizona and California have joined eight districts that make up the Front Range Water Council and a few ski areas in funding Colorado’s cloud-seeding program in a widespread effort to load passing winter storms with moisture-wicking silver iodide molecules.

The 111 cloud-seeding cannons — or ice nuclei generators — positioned across the state are today powered by a wider-than-ever array of interests. In previous years, cloud-seeding efforts were driven largely by the state’s two thirstiest entities, Denver Water and Colorado Springs Utilities. This year, Aurora Water, the Northwest Colorado Water Conservation District, the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., the Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Pueblo Water Works have joined the state’s water-slurping heavyweights under the Front Range Water Council banner to support cloud seeding…

“They are primarily interested in . . . reducing the potential for Compact curtailment,” said Maria Pastore, whose Grand River Consulting Corp. in Glenwood Springs is administrating the new cooperative program, replacing Denver Water in the supporting role for Colorado cloud- seeding programs. Since 2006, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the California Six Agency Committee and the Central Arizona Conservation District have funded about half of the state’s cloud-seeding efforts, matching the nearly $1 million the Colorado Water Conservation District has paid since launching its formal cloud-seeding grant program in 2004.

“I think the (district) boards down there are impressed,” said Joe Busto, who manages the state’s cloud-seeding operation for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, or CWCB. “The strategy there is to try to boost the low three-year averages on the Colorado River. It’s a tool to intentionally keep the flows up and stay out of conflict with other users.”[…]

Newer, more-efficient machines — designed by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute and funded in part by the CWCB — were installed this fall in the Fraser River Valley on the Grand Mesa and in the southern San Juans. The new, remotely controlled generators seed silver iodide at a much heavier rate, sending up as much as 28 grams of the molecules an hour versus a typical six grams an hour. And the new machines — two of which are positioned around Winter Park ski area, which is paying $22,000 of the new machine’s $59,000 cost — are located at higher elevations, enabling easier seeding of passing clouds.

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

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