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Lake Tahoe area cloud seeding short of cash

With winter approaching and governments struggling through fiscal difficulty, researchers are in search of money needed to squeeze a little extra moisture from snowstorms. The Desert Research Institute in September secured a promise of up to $100,000 from the Western Regional Water Commission to fund a cloud-seeding program for the Lake Tahoe area. In late October, the DRI plans to seek a larger contribution from the Truckee River Fund, which is administered by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

It's part of an effort to continue a 25-year-old program nearly killed when the 2009 Legislature pulled state funding that was going to the DRI. A last-minute pitch to water purveyors saved the program last winter, and now officials are trying to line up the money needed during the winter of 2010-11.

Mountaintop generators release silver iodide particles into clouds, boosting snowfall amounts above natural levels. Aircraft can also release the particles into storm clouds to produce additional snow. Last winter's cloud seeding provided a "decent enhancement" to snowfall needed after the previous three dry years caused a water deficit from which the region is still recovering.