News Feature | April 2, 2014

Can Snow-Making Boost The Water Supply?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Water ratepayers in Arizona are funding a quirky research project as scientists attempt to make it snow.

"As a pair of storms moved over the mountains of southeastern Wyoming last week, a set of propane-fueled machines was poised to shoot silver iodide particles into the clouds, hoping to goad them into producing more snow," the Arizona Republic reported

Water agencies are helping to fund the project. "Over the past eight years, the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the agency that operates the canal that directs Colorado River water into the state, has spent $798,600 to fund small-scale cloud-seeding operations in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, which received a blast of spring snow [in March]," the report said. 

The goal of the experiment is to increase the amount of snow in the Rocky Mountains, which could eventually trickle down into the Colorado River. This, in turn, would make more drinking water available. Researchers say this method could boost the water supply by 5 to 10 percent. 

"Funding was approved by the elected board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which controls the CAP. The money for the agency comes from municipal and corporate water users of the canal — in effect, everyone who pays a water bill or property tax in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties," the report said.

"It's still in the conceptual or pilot-project stage," Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said in the report. "And I'm still not sure, as a board member, whether it's something we're going to want to pursue in any greater volume."

Water scarcity is a major problem for Arizona. "It’s high time for Arizona to discuss a long-term plan that doesn’t just bank on the Colorado River and groundwater for our future water security," an opinion piece in the Arizona Daily Star argued earlier this year. 

The Arizona Department of Water Resources says that if something isn’t done, the state will see "annual water shortfalls of up to 900,000 acre-feet a year by 2050 and 2 million to 3 million acre-feet — enough to serve 4 million to 9 million people — by the early 2100s," the Arizona Daily Star reported in a news article.  

The state gets water from three major sources, according to Arizona Experience.  These include "surface water (which includes the Colorado River water and water from other major rivers and streams), groundwater, and effluent or reclaimed water," the report said. 

Image credit: "Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado," © 2011 Derek Keats, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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