Nevada Legislature: Cloud seeding called vital due to drought |

Nevada Legislature: Cloud seeding called vital due to drought

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, told fellow members of Senate Finance on Thursday the bill putting $500,000 into cloud seeding efforts this coming biennium is vital because of the drought.

“We already recognize that, at this point, we are in a drought that we have never seen before,” he said. “We all understand that you’ve got to have clouds to seed but, when we do get a weather system, we have to have the money in place.”

He said a large share of funding would be used in the northern half of Nevada but Southern Nevada Water Authority and other areas also would see funding if there are storms to seed.

Dr. Mike Baughman of the Humboldt River Basin Water Authority said cloud seeding is probably the best way to immediately increase precipitation when a storm does pass over the state. He said numerous other stakeholders are willing to contribute as well because the actual need is more like $1 million a year instead of $500,000 over two years.

He said the plan is for a matching grants program because, “we don’t expect the state to do this alone.”

Baughman pointed out the Humboldt basin raised $70,000 to contribute to cloud seeding efforts last year.

He said agriculture especially has been hard hit by the drought. He said Reno-Sparks has called for cutbacks in water use, and recreational areas from Lahontan to Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe have been hard hit by the lack of water.

Desert Research Institute and local officials said there are seeding programs in the Tahoe-Truckee area funded by Truckee Meadows Water Authority and in Southern Nevada funded by SWNA. SB423 would provide money for much broader seeding efforts statewide.

The state funded cloud seeding from the early 1980s until 2008 when the program was cut because of the recession.

In response to a question from Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, Mark Pitchford of Dessert Research Institute said they have considered using drones to seed clouds but getting Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly on short notice is difficult. He said seeding by aircraft is usually done by flares on the trailing edges of aircraft wings to distribute the chemicals: “You can imagine the reaction the FAA might have to having an unmanned vehicle on fire flying in the air.”

The seeding program also was supported by Ed James of the Carson Water Subconservancy District who said normally he and others have a pool to guess what the river’s peak flow would be. This year, he said the pool is on when the Carson River runs dry.

He said the subconservancy supports the appropriation in SB423.

The committee took no action on the bill.