The January 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the Water Information Program

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Demand Management – a Hot Topic!!
There was an in-depth conversation around the Demand Management topic!

Celene Hawkins stated that the Demand Management workgroups are just at the beginning stages of work and there are still many questions. There is a greater need for coordination and keeping a steady pace of the work, while not moving too quickly so as to not miss things, as these are very complicated issues and need to take that time that is needed to do the work. There will be a joint IBCC and Demand Management work-group meetings that will take place March 4-5 where discussion could take place about that better coordination and how the CWCB can support the work-groups moving forward.

Russell George stated that the IBCC is not a work-group in Demand Management, they intentionally stand aside because they wanted to be ready as the IBCC to pick any particularly thorny question with the statewide implication that needed their help. The IBCC believes that at this point in time, and because of what’s going on with the river as a whole and the water levels of the big reservoirs, Demand Management becomes probably one of the most important issues for discussion on Colorado water issues that there is today. George explained that we owe it to the other Upper Basin states who are going through this drill, to work together to find an approach that works in all four states or to learn together that Demand Management can’t be done. Whatever conclusion is reached, it needs to be based on open and careful consideration of Demand Management as a tool that is being evaluated, as called for in the Drought Contingency Plans and Legislation.

Southwestern Water Conservation District Area Map. Credit: SWCD

As the Southwest dries out, water managers increasingly look to cloud seeding — The Durango Herald

Cloud seeding ground station. Photo credit H2O Radio via the Colorado Independent.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

For decades, Western states have tried to offset long-term drying trends and dwindling water supplies of the region by sending up a specialized concoction into the atmosphere as winter storms approach, which proponents say boosts snowfall.

Across a sliver of Colorado from Telluride to Pagosa Springs, a total of 36 cloud-seeding generators are strategically placed, typically 5 miles apart, to cover a wide range of the high country of the San Juan Mountains for this purpose.

In 2020, the Southwestern Water Conservation District has set aside $27,000 for a new remote generator. While the station’s location is being decided, the aim is to place it at a higher elevation site where there is a gap in the network of generators.

“The majority of our water supply comes from snowpack, so if we can provide any additional amount, it has a huge benefit to our basin,” said Frank Kugel, executive director of SWCD, which represents nine counties in Southwest Colorado.

Waters managers who rely on the Colorado River are dealing with an array of issues as more people move into the region and demands increase on a waterway that is seeing less water every year because of issues directly related to climate change.

In adapting to this new reality, cloud seeding, they say, is just one part of the attempted solution…

Does it work?

How much additional snow falls as a result of cloud seeding has been a hot topic among water managers for years, and most agree, more detailed research needs to happen to pin down just how much additional snow is extracted from the practice.

Yet, most accept an estimated range between 2% to 15% more snow per storm.

Statewide, about $1.2 million is spent annually toward cloud seeding, with money coming from local and state water districts, as well as lower basin states that rely on the Colorado River, said Andrew Rickert, program manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Supporters of the project have said that for every $1 in cost, about $3 worth of water is produced…

The future

Better technology, more generators in high-elevation spots and more stations in general are the top priority with cloud seeding going further.

Experiments have been conducted in recent years that show releasing silver iodide by plane gets more out of storms, but the practice is expensive, and cost-prohibitive, Kugel said.

Southwestern Water Conservation District, along with its partners, will take the coming weeks to find the best spot for the new remote generator in the region. The district spends about $117,000 on the entire cloud-seeding effort in the region.

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the #EagleRiver Watershed Council

Photo credit: Eagle River Watershed Council

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Cloud Seeding Discussion with Colorado River District

A big thank you to our presenters, Dave Kanzer with the Colorado River District and Eric Hjermstad with Western Weather Consultants for a great community discussion. We had about 50 folks join us at Loaded Joe’s to learn about the weather modification tool being implemented locally.

Missed it? You can watch a recorded version here thanks to High Five Access Media and the underwriting of Eagle River Water & Sanitation District!

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

The San Juan Water Conservancy District ponies up $1,000 for cloud-seeding research

State cloud seeding programs. Graphic credit: The Huffington Post

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

Following a presentation earlier in the day, the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) Board of Directors opted to see if ef- forts from cloud seeding could produce any re- sults that could be seen locally before providing funding to cloud seeding efforts.

The cloud seeding presentation was given to the board during a work session on Tuesday by Eric and Mike Hjermstad from Western Weather Consultants LLC, and following the work ses- sion, the board had a possible action item on whether or not to fund cloud seeding efforts for the southwest basin.
In the draft budget, the SJWCD has $1,000 set aside for potential cloud seeding funding…

The effectiveness and amount of extra moisture that is produced by cloud seeding ef- forts has been debated for years, SJWCD board member Al Pfister noted…

[Bill] Hudson later made a motion that suggested the SJWCD look into whether or not it could help finance the research of cloud seeding operations in the district’s watershed and would task SJWCD consultant Renee Lewis to conduct this project. The motion passed unanimously.

Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #drought contingency plan depends on rights holders bypassing water #COriver #aridification

The looming possibility of mandatory curtailment of water use has raised concerns among Western Slope water managers, who feel that such cuts could harm Western Slope agricultural, such as this hay filed in the Yampa River basin. However, as water levels continue to drop to record lows in Lake Powell, mandatory curltailments are being discussed as a real possibility, especially by Front Range water managers. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Eleanor C. Hassenbeck):

The collective group of [recently signed] agreements is called the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan.

It aims to raise the unprecedented low water levels in the largest reservoirs on the Colorado River system, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, to enable them to continue to deliver water and produce hydropower.

In Colorado, it calls for three possible actions:

  • Creating a bank of stored water in federally owned reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell. This water would be released into Lake Powell in order to make sure Colorado continues to meet obligations to deliver a certain amount of water to downstream states under the Colorado River Compact.
  • Increasing cloud seeding and removing deep-rooted, invasive plants that take up a lot of water, such as tamarisk.
  • Creating a voluntary program that would temporarily pay agricultural water users to fallow their land and send water they have a right to downstream. This is called demand management.
  • Of the options on the table, demand management — the option that would pay farmers not to use their water — is the one most likely to impact Routt County…

    Demand management is still only a hypothetical, so the Yampa River Basin could opt out of a program if it doesn’t work for the area.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board has assembled workgroups on topics related to demand management. These groups are now meeting behind closed doors to develop preliminary reports outlining how the program might work.

    Brown said once these reports are completed and released to the public, there will be opportunities for community members to provide input on the idea. She said there will be the “opportunity for a real, thoughtful conversation, especially in the Yampa and White (river) basins.”

    Cloud seeding part of efforts to put the brakes on #snowpack decline #aridification

    Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    A lot of the current water scarcity problems in the Southwest could be eased if it just snowed more and with a regular frequency in the high country of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. More snow means more time to deal with the Colorado River’s fundamental supply and demand imbalance.

    The onus to correcting that imbalance often falls more on the demand side of the equation, with myriad policy pushes that either incentivize or force people to use less water. On the supply side, options are limited.

    There’s one tempting proposition for western water managers currently feeling the pressure to dole out cutbacks to users due to the region’s ongoing aridification — inducing clouds to drop more snow.

    For decades, states have invested in weather modification programs, also known as cloud seeding, in the hopes of boosting precious snowpack. The practice showed up in a recent agreement among Colorado River Basin states, and investment is expanding, with water agencies in Wyoming and Colorado for the first time putting funds toward aerial cloud seeding, rather than solely relying on ground-based generators.

    State cloud seeding programs. Graphic credit: The Huffington Post

    Cloud seeding starts up in #Wyoming

    Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    On Nov. 15 Wyoming started using small airplanes to flare silver iodide into snowstorms that roll into the Sierra Madre and Medicine Bow mountains, north of the Colorado-Wyoming border. North Dakota-based Weather Modification Inc. operates the planes. Since starting this fall, WMI has seeded clouds over southern Wyoming four times.

    Now, the Jackson County Water Conservancy District wants to expand the practice near the headwaters of the North Platte River in northern Colorado. The district is seeking a permit from the state’s Water Conservation Board to begin aerial seeding during winter storms.

    Recent studies have shown cloud seeding can marginally increase snowpack in theory. But a 2018 study from researchers at the University of Wyoming and the University of Colorado said big questions still remain regarding the practice’s effectiveness.

    If the state approves the permit, this would be Colorado’s first aerial cloud seeding program.

    Wyoming’s program costs the state roughly $425,000, with Cheyenne’s water utility contributing $45,000. The state also oversees cloud seeding towers in the Wind River mountain range, which are partially paid for by water agencies in Arizona, California and Nevada.

    Some of Colorado’s cloud seeding operations receive funding from the same states, all in the Colorado River’s lower basin. Earlier this year, water managers in the seven basin states signed a new agreement to continue cloud seeding operations in the southern Rockies, allocating up to $2 million annually. The practice was included as a way to increase water supplies in Drought Contingency Plans being negotiated now, and recently approved by Colorado’s top water authority, the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Aerial seeding in northern Colorado could begin later this month.