U.S. Water News Online
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Cloud seeding operations to increase rainfall within the 15-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 service area and a portion of eastern New Mexico will begin as soon as final equipment is installed at the Weather Modification Inc. operations center at the Littlefield, Texas airport.
"No aircraft will be launched for cloud seeding until the operations center is fully functional," said A. Wayne Wyatt, High Plains Water District manager. "The radar unit is up and running, but there are a few other pieces of equipment that need to be in place before regular flights begin. We expect Weather Modification Inc. personnel to complete this in the next fews days."
Recently, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) approved a four-year permit to allow Weather Modification Inc. to conduct spring and summer precipitation enhancement programs on behalf of the Water District.
Precipitation enhancement, or cloud seeding, is an attempt to encourage clouds to generate more rainfall than they would otherwise by introducing seeding agents, such as silver iodide. The silver iodide provides additional condensation nuclei to allow more cloud moisture to be converted to large raindrops that can survive the fall through the dry subcloud layer and reach the ground as meaningful rainfall.
An addendum to the original contract with Weather Modification Inc. was approved by the Water District Board of Directors on May 27 to extend the 1997 precipitation enhancement activities to include Roosevelt County, New Mexico. Two other New Mexico counties, Curry and southwestern Quay, indicated a serious intent to join the program. Those counties will likely join the program within the next few weeks, according to Scotty Savage, a representative of the Llano Estacado Weather Modification Association, which includes all three New Mexico counties.
Participants will pay a pro-rata share of the fixed and reimbursable program costs, based upon total acreage. For example, the High Plains Water District will pay 81 percent of the program cost for its 6,869,910-acre service area, while Roosevelt County will pay 19 percent of the program cost for its 1,570,880-acre service area. These percentages will be adjusted accordingly if the other New Mexico counties join the program.
"Approval of this addendum has several advantages. The residents of Roosevelt County, New Mexico will benefit from any additional rainfall generated as a result of the precipitation enhancement program. The contractor's permit to seed clouds in New Mexico will benefit producers within the High Plains Water District whose farms are close to the Texas-New Mexico state line. Also, the addition of Roosevelt County will help reduce the per-acre cost to residents of our district," said Wyatt.
The water district will pay for the program's first year with its operating reserves, but will likely increase taxes to fund the program in subsequent years. The district currently assesses a tax rate of .0084 cents per $100 valuation.
Water district staff are working to establish a homepage on the Internet that will contain information about the precipitation enhancement program. "Once it is operational, persons accessing this website will be able to view Doppler radar images of clouds which have been seeded and obtain updated information about the program," said Wyatt.
The precipitation enhancement program will operate from May to September 1997. The target area consists of all of Bailey, Cochran, Hale, Lubbock, Lynn, and Parmer Counties. It also includes parts of Armstrong, Castro, Crosby, Deaf Smith, Floyd, Hockley, Lamb, Potter, and Randall Counties in Texas and Roosevelt County in New Mexico.
Additional information about the 1997 precipitation enhancement program is available by contacting the High Plains Water District at 2930 Avenue Q, Lubbock, Texas 79405-1499, or by calling (806) 762-0181.
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