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CO River District Looks To Cloud Seeding To Boost Water Supply

Nov 5, 2018

Proposed cloud seeding activities could mean slightly more snow on area mountains and an increased water supply for the Colorado River basin.
Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio

The Colorado River District has an idea that could boost the Roaring Fork water supply. A proposal for cloud seeding goes in front of Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers Board this week.

 

Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification where a solution of silver iodide is blown into clouds during snow storms. Silver iodide particles act as a seed for ice to form around, creating snowflakes.

The Colorado River District says adding to the snowpack is one way to address dwindling water supplies; a study in Wyoming showed that, when the conditions are right, cloud seeding can increase snowfall by 5 to 15 percent per storm. That translates to a slight increase in water supplies -- a 1 to 5 percent increase in snowpack-derived water.

Dave Kanzer, an engineer with the River District, said more efficient storms with more snowfall can mean more water across the West.

“We're not just talking about one county and one city," Kanzer said. "We’re really talking about augmenting or increasing the water supply for 40 million people that rely on the Colorado River Basin.”

The River District has ongoing cloud seeding operations across Colorado, all along the Continental Divide, but not in Aspen and Pitkin County.

“We are proposing to fill in those areas upstream toward Independence Pass, to include all of the Ski Co properties, and all of the upper Roaring Fork Watershed,” Kanzer said.

He will present a proposal for a three-year cloud-seeding program to Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers Board at its meeting this Thursday. The River District has also been in talks with the City of Aspen and Aspen Skiing Company.  

The proposal would need approval from the state of Colorado.