By RODNEY D. BOAM
As area reservoirs are drying up and streams running extremely low, it may be time to re-evaluate cloud seeding in Franklin County and other places where water is in short supply.
About three years ago Franklin County and local canal companies ceased cloud seeding operations because some believed it was costing too much money and the data didn’t prove it was doing much to increase snowpack in nearby mountains.
“I was in from the beginning,” said county commissioner Scott Workman. “There was a guy from California that showed the positive results of cloud seeding and I thought it was a good thing.”
Cloud seeding was originally supposed to increase much-needed water to irrigate farms and give a drink to area livestock. Workman said the commission voted to quit funding it so the operation stopped.
Oneida, Bear Lake and Caribou counties had tapped out of cloud seeding. Then the price of silver began to rise. Silver iodide is a main ingredient in making ice crystals. It got too expensive for most counties to buy, Workman said.
Water continues to be a valuable resource in Idaho’s agriculture. A 2009-published study by the USGS on the regional economic demand for irrigation water in Idaho’s Eastern Snake River Plain showed an increased need for water.
“Demands for water throughout the west are exploding,” the study said. “Agricultural, municipal, industrial, energy and environmental water demands are all increasing.”
Western water supplies are fully, if not overly, allocated and water supply for new demands (including potable water supplies) must come from reallocation of existing supplies.
The study also said in the 12 most western contiguous states, 82 percent of withdrawals and 92 percent of consumptive use is for agriculture.
Idaho Power Company and others are committed to cloud seeding along the Snake River and may have a different philosophy. The company relies on water to generate electricity from 17 hydro power plants along southeastern Idaho’s largest waterway.
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