Final Cloud Seeding Evaluation Shows Benefits

Final Cloud Seeding Evaluation Shows Benefits

Seeding Operations and Atmospheric Research (SOAR) and Wichita Falls city leaders said, once again, that cloud seeding operations have proved beneficial in Texoma. A final evaluation was presented to the Wichita Falls City Council Tuesday.

The cloud seeding program cost $280,000. However, many outside contributions helped kick that total cost for Wichita Falls down to $165,000.

"Cloud seeding is not a silver bullet," said SOAR Manager, Gary Walker. "But there is no silver bullet for water. If there was, everyone would already be doing it."

The evaluation used data from roughly six months of seeding operations in Wichita Falls. The project started March 1, 2014 and ran through June 30, 2014. The city put the cloud seeding contract on hold during the summer, picking those missions back up August 27, 2014. All cloud seeding missions ended October 3, 2014.

Once all missions were completed, SOAR sent information on the cloud seeding missions to a third party for an evaluation. The information was sent to Arquimedes Ruiz Columbie, a professor at Texas Tech in Lubbock. He has a PhD in Geoscience, and has experience as a scientist in the Texas Weather Modification Association.

The evaluation used the data in a TITAN analysis. The analysis compared seeded clouds versus non-seeded clouds, the same size, and on the same day. The evaluation showed that the seeded clouds lasted longer and gave the city more rainfall, than the clouds that weren't seeded.

Throughout the cloud seeding time period, SOAR seeded 39 clouds, and shot off 410 flares. SOAR officials said it was these missions that led to a 4.2 percent increase in the city of Wichita Falls' annual rainfall count of 23.77 inches.

"We put more than an inch of water on the ground in those watersheds," said Walker.

Walker said the total increase in rainfall came to 391,250 acre-feet. In The analysis officials assumed 10 percent of that increase actually made it in the reservoirs. Officials said they conservatively broke down that amount and eventually concluded that 6,846 acre-feet, made it into lakes Arrowhead and Kickapoo.

That 6,000 acre-feet equals about 2 billion gallons of water. The average American family of four uses an estimated 144,000 gallons of water per year. Two billion gallons of water could serve 13,000 families for an entire year.

"It's a lot of water and with the lakes like they are now we need every drop," said Russell Schreiber. Director of Public Works in Wichita Falls.

Walker broke those numbers down even further. They took the cost of the project, with the amount of estimated water the city gained, and they discovered that the city saw a $1.58 return on every $1.

But SOAR officials and Schreiber said that this evaluation and estimated water increases are just that, an estimate.

"We were pleased with the analysis," said Schreiber. "We will dive into that, the best we can and evaluate it internally with staff."

In about two weeks city officials will meet and break down these numbers even further. From there they will decide if this program is something they want to pursue this year.

For the full evaluation report: Click Here

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6