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Cloud seeding takes three to four months and may result in up to 30 minutes of precipitation. (Photo: Philippe Calia/Bloomberg)
Cloud seeding takes three to four months and may result in up to 30 minutes of precipitation. (Photo: Philippe Calia/Bloomberg)

Cloud Seeding Faces Funding Challenges

Cloud seeding projects have been practiced in Iran since 2008, but whether they have been effective is up for debate
More than 52 countries have active cloud-seeding operations

Cloud Seeding Faces Funding Challenges

Atmospheric water resources are safe, sustainable and efficient sources that can help meet the country's water demands, according to the head of Iran's Water Research Institute.
"Atmospheric water is valuable and can be made available at a low cost," Morteza Eftekhari also told a conference on the use of cloud seeding technology to produce water in Iran's catchment areas earlier this week.
Cloud seeding projects have been practiced in Iran since 2008 and studies suggest that it is a more cost-effective method than extracting water from groundwater sources.
"The cost of withdrawing water from clouds is between 150 and 450 rials ($0.004 and $0.011) per cubic meter while the Energy Ministry is currently spending 10,000 rials ($0.25) to withdraw the same amount from groundwater resources and charges the consumers around 3,000 rials ($0.07)," Eftekhari was quoted as saying by Azad University News Agency.  
Pointing to the development of technology for extracting water from atmospheric resources in the world, the official noted that Iran has great potential in this regard and will be able to tap into these resources "should the authorities give due attention to the matter and allocate sufficient funds for research projects in this field".
"Lack of funds has been a major challenge. Last year, out of the 100 billion rials ($2.5 million) of the required budget, only 12 billion rials ($308,000) were allocated to the project," Eftekhari said.
Cloud seeding, a form of weather modification, is a way of attempting to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud.
The process takes three to four months which is expected to result in a 20 to 30 minutes of precipitation within a 100- to 150-kilometer radius.
Over the 2.5 months since the beginning of the current water year (started Sept. 22), around 30 hours of seeding have been carried out in the country, during which 1,000 capsules containing silver iodide were shot toward the clouds.
Iran is largely semi-arid and suffers from drought. However, the plan has only been carried out in seven provinces: Yazd, Isfahan, Fars, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Sistan-Baluchestan and Khuzestan.

  Not All It Seems?
Cloud seeding, like other forms of weather modification, has drawn its fair share of criticisms. The practice has been controversial since it was invented in 1946 by American chemist Vincent Schaefer.
“There’s little dispute that if you can actually get the seeding material inside the clouds, it will enhance precipitation,” Dan Breed, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg in an article published last year. “The question is, by how much? Just as it’s hard to predict the weather, it’s hard to really know if you’ve made it rain or not."
Despite the uncertainty, the industry is on the rise. According to the World Meteorological Organization, more than 52 countries have active cloud-seeding operations—up from 42 five years ago. In the US last year, 55 cloud-seeding projects were reported.
There is even a luxury cloud-seeding market emerging—one European company, for instance, charges a minimum of $150,000 to guarantee good wedding weather by forcing clouds to rain in the days before the event.

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