- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - A researcher with the Colorado Water Conservation Board says cloud seeding in southwestern Colorado is helping to squeeze more water out of passing snowstorms, using heaters that vaporize silver iodide to form artificial ice.

In southwest Colorado, workers light generators that look like large propane tanks, sending flames into pans that send vaporized silver iodide up to the base of clouds. There the silver iodide forms an artificial ice crystal that draws in more water, forming larger snowflakes.

Then they fall to the ground.

“When there’s lots of liquid water coming through, then you have a storm to work. … The seeding response is better. You get more bang for your buck,” said Joe Busto, a researcher with the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “It’s meant to add just a little bit more per storm.”

Researchers say a study in Wyoming conducted from 2005 to 2014 found cloud seeding can add 5 to 15 percent more precipitation.

Eric Hjermstad, co-owner and director of field operations for Western Weather Consultants, which does cloud seeding, said every bit of water helps the parched Southwest.

Hjermstad said seeding helps build snowpack to replenish aquifers and helps fill reservoirs such as Lake Powell for other Western states struggling to find water.

Regional water agencies and ski resorts paid $237,900 this season to help with the seeding, according to the Southwestern Water Conservation District. Western Weather operates about 36 generators from Pagosa Springs to Telluride, the Durango Herald reported (https://tinyurl.com/zmhr74m).

The Southwest Basin Roundtable is providing about $55,600 to hire a consultant to help select equipment and find the right areas to place it.

A statewide strategic plan to upgrade equipment will likely take two years because there are 12 agencies and companies involved.

The Durango City Council is not participating because of doubts over the benefits of cloud seeding.

Councilor Dick White said if they do work, the projects may be taking water from other areas that need it, including the Navajo Nation.

“If you’re making more water fall in one place, it’s not falling someplace else,” he said.

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Information from: Durango Herald, https://www.durangoherald.com

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