Wisdom of Cloud Seeding Questioned

Wisdom of Cloud Seeding Questioned
Wisdom of Cloud Seeding Questioned

Cloud seeding initiatives, which are primarily aimed at increasing rainfall, can do very little to tackle the deepening water crisis in Iran, the head of Water Affairs Faculty at Shahid Chamran University in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, said.
“Creating artificial rain with cloud seeding technique is an outdated method that is no longer in use not only due to its low efficiency but also because of its potentially harmful ecological impacts,” Mehdi Qomshi was also quoted as saying by ILNA.
Cloud seeding involves using aircraft or drones to add small particles of silver iodide, which have a structure similar to ice, to clouds. Water droplets cluster around the particles, modifying the structure of the clouds and increasing the chance of precipitation.
“All state-owned companies and executive bodies, including the Energy Ministry subsidiaries that insist on conducting cloud seeding projects, know it is useless. Hence, investing in such plans is a lost cause that wastes time and financial resources.”
Based on calculations in 2017, a single sortie, including the aircraft's rent, fuel, insurance and seeding material, cost $35,000, which has now tripled due to the rise in forex rates.
Qomshi noted that although domestic experts have been conducting research on the method for 20 years, it has never played a major role in easing the acute water paucity.
"Improvement of technique can be on the ministry's agenda, yet national policies to secure water supplies should not be based on such technology," he said, adding that even developed states do not pin hope on the method to overcome their water scarcity problems.
The official noted that the equipment for cloud seeding operations are manufactured by domestic firms, but the technique can at most meet 5% of a country's water supply needs, if the much-needed funds are allocated.
According to Qomshi, cloud seeding projects have been implemented in Iran since 2008, mainly in 10 provinces, namely Yazd, Isfahan, Fars, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, South Khorasan and Kermanshah.
“Nevertheless, they have never yielded positive results, so persisting in repeating the same mistake makes no sense,” he added.


Call for Broader Water Plan

Qomshi said such projects need to be part of a broader water plan that involves conserving water efficiently.
“We can’t just focus on one thing. Also, one wonders whether you will be able to do it in a changing climate; you need cold temperatures and once it gets too warm, you aren’t able to do the cloud seeding,” he added.
As the practice was invented in the 1940s, it seems rather surprising that to this day no one really knows if cloud seeding is worth the hassle.
Cloud seeding is likely to have dire consequences for the environment, if not well regulated. Dry areas are not usually well-positioned to handle certain weather conditions, and thus, may become easily flooded and cause more harm to the already struggling environment.
This technique makes use of chemicals such as silver iodide, potassium iodide, etc., whose long-term effects are still being assessed. In other words, how far these chemicals are safe and may not threaten plants, animals, humans and the environment is not known yet.
Despite the fact that 56 countries had cloud seeding operations in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Association, evidence of its efficacy is limited. Previous attempts have shown that the process leads to between 0% and 10% more rainfall.


Drying Up Resources

ILNA also quoted Isa Kalantari, the head of the Department of Environment, as saying that the country's water resources will dry up in less than 40 years.
"Rainfall in Iran's six main catchment areas has plunged by 50% in the last water year that ended last week," he said, adding that it is regrettable that the less it rains, the more injudiciously water is consumed in the country as if people have not felt “the depth of the crisis" yet.
Comparing water and oil, he noted that unlike oil that is abundant and its supply outweighs demand, water is a scarce commodity that is being used imprudently.
“Our demand is much higher than the existing resources,” Kalantari declared.
Some 37 million Iranians are living in water-stressed regions, the Geological Survey & Mineral Explorations of Iran reported.
Kalantari believes that the severity of water shortage in Iran has not yet dawned on the general public and even government authorities had not acknowledged the depth of the problem until only recently. 

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