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SLO County looks at cloud seeding as a way to fill local reservo - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

SLO County looks at cloud seeding as a way to fill local reservoirs

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With the lack of rainfall and as San Luis Obispo County is officially back in a drought officials here are considering ways to fill local lakes.

One potential idea at the top of the list is cloud seeding.

It's a process that increases the amount of rain. In fact, it's done all over the world including in Santa Barbara County where it's been utilized for nearly 40 years.

One way cloud seeding works is through ground dispensers placed near mountain ridges.

"The seeding agent will react with the clouds and will cause it to rain," said SLO County Supervising Water Resources Engineer, Ray Dienzo.

Planes can also put the seeding agent, silver iodide, into the clouds.

"The idea is that it would increase the rain potential by about 10 to 15 percent," Dienzo continued.

This could add thousands of acre feet of water to Lopez Lake and the Salinas Reservoir, better known as Santa Margarita Lake.

"It could add 6 to 12 percent capacity in Lopez and about 12 to 24 percent in Salinas," Dienzo added.

In 2012, cloud seeding was mentioned in the county's master water report.

A feasibility study was just completed last year.

Santa Barbara County is no stranger to winter cloud seeding.

"Not all storms are seedable," said Santa Barbara County Water Agency Manager, Fray Crease. "The material is effective in certain temperature ranges, the winds have to be in the right direction."

Since 1981, Santa Barbara County has targeted the watershed upstream of Twitchell Dam and also the watersheds above Cachuma Lake.

A couple of years ago, the numbers were reviewed.

"In the Santa Ynez watershed you can estimate about 20 percent increase of precipitation with seeding and in the Twitchell watershed about 10 percent," Crease continued.

SLO County hopes for a comparable outcome as it's looking at eight areas to place the ground dispensers.

The review period for the environmental document, Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration ends on March 20, 2018.

The final MND will be presented at the County Board of Supervisors hearing tentatively scheduled for June 19, 2018.

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