After years of dry winters and disappointing snowpacks, New Mexico is considering cloud seeding as a solution to the state’s water woes. Cloud seeding has already been common practice in Colorado, where the state’s ski resorts contribute to the $1.5 million programs every year to increase their snowpack. New Mexico’s ski resorts have struggled with maintaining lucrative snowpacks in the wake of a severe drought. The state’s low snowpacks have also reverberated to water stress on farmers in the water-scarce southern portion of the state. Although the idea of inducing increased precipitation sounds like a no-brainer, the process has drawn criticism from environmental groups who fear the sustainability and consequences of inducing rainfall using inorganic compounds.
Western Weather Consultants of Durango, Colorado submitted the proposal to the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The operation will begin by December 13 if nothing goes awry during a public hearing on Monday—and if the proposal is approved NMISC.
The controversy around the proposed solution to the state’s water woes lies in the inorganic compounds that are released into the atmosphere. A mixture consisting of silver iodide is released into the atmosphere either with planes or drones or, in the proposed project, through a ground-based device that will allow the particles to rise to a targeted cloud. Once the solution is released, it resembles the structure of ice, which water molecules cluster around and increases the chances of a cloud releasing its moisture.
The practice of cloud seeding is nothing new. The U.S. military began climate experiments just after WWII throughout the 1950s to explore potential military applications of artificially altering the weather. Since then countries around the world have used the methods to relieve drought-stricken regions. Eight U.S. states are already using cloud seeding to boost their snowpacks as summers become hotter and drier. The benefits of clouding seeding are still considered ambiguous at best, as there has been no direct evidence that artificial efforts to induce clouds to release their moisture are reliable.
Northern New Mexico is the latest region to consider the controversial practice to relieve their water woes. The area under the proposal is the Eastern Sangre De Cristo Mountains, including Taos and Santa Fe as its most southern boundary. A mixture including the silver iodide will be released from devices, called cloud-seeding nuclei generators, which would distribute the mixture from remote locations across the region. The area would target New Mexico’s ski resorts, including Taos, Angel Fire, Red River, Sipapu and Ski Santa Fe.
The public comment meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 22, at 10am. To register for the meeting, visit register.gotowebinar.com/register.
Justin Schatz is The Paper’s daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.