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Southern Nevada Water Authority gets $2.4M for cloud seeding
DENVER The Southern Nevada Water Authority on Thursday voted to accept a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in other Western states whose rivers feed the parched desert region.The weather modification method uses planes and ground-based cannons to shoot silver iodide crystals into clouds, attracting moisture to the particles that falls as additional snow and rain.The funding comes as key reservoirs on the Colorado River hit record lows and booming Western cities and industries fail to adjust their water use to increasingly shrinking supplies. "This money from Reclamation is wonderful, we just have to decide how exactly its going to benefit us," said Andrew Rickert, who coordinates Colorados cloud seeding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.The federal funding will go toward upgrading manual generators to ones that can be remotely operated, and using planes to seed clouds in key parts of the Upper Colorado River Basin, according to Southern Nevada Water Authority documents for its board meeting.Securing enough generators could be a challenge, Rickert said. It will all be used to do cloud seeding in the Upper Basin for the benefit of all the rivers users, wrote public outreach officer Corey Enus over email.In the Upper Colorado River Basin, Utah and Colorado have been seeding clouds for decades. In 2018, several entities, including the Southern Nevada Water Authority, committed to long-term funding for those efforts, collectively contributing about $1.5 million annually.The reclamation bureau regularly funded cloud seeding operations toward the end of the 20th century, but has largely backed off in recent years, according to Frank McDonough a scientist at the nonprofit Desert Research Institute.The research thats come out over the last 10 years or so really seems to have convinced them that cloud seeding is a legitimate way to increase snowpack and subsequent water resources, McDonough said.The grant from the bureau will be spread out over two years, temporarily doubling financial support for the Upper Basin cloud seeding from outside parties.The seven Colorado River basin states are still negotiating with the Bureau of Reclamation on how they will conserve 2 million to 4 million acre-feet of water or up to roughly one-third. The Bureau is expected to release a draft proposal this month and expects to finalize plans by mid-August, when it typically announces the amount of water available from the Colorado River for the following year.With such an over-allocated river, everyone will have to use less, particularly the agricultural sector, said Kathryn Sorensen of the Kyl Center for Water Policy think tank.I think a lot the allure of this type of program is its easier to talk about how do we get more than to talk about who has to use less, she said.The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy.