The 1988 drought may be a boon to at least one Utah company, North American Weather Consultants.

Despite its name, the company doesn't provide weather-consulting services, it tries to increase rainfall and snowfall to help with water problems, North American President Keith Brown said Monday.For about 12 years, the company's Utah operations mostly had been confined to 13 of the state's 29 counties. But last spring North American added four northern Utah counties, and its 1988-89 application calls for cloud seeding in up to 24 counties.

"The final area to be covered has not been determined yet," said Brown, "but it will be somewhere within that 24-county area. It could end up to be all 24 counties, or somewhat less."

"This year's drought has impacted Utah and the Western states almost universally, and we're definitely seeing a bigger interest in increasing precipitation almost everywhere," he said.

North American's "ground generators" use propane to heat silver iodide until the chemical vaporizes. The vapors then float up into storm fronts and attract water molecules to form raindrops or snowflakes.

"It's proven quite effective, especially in the mountainous areas such as Utah," Brown said. "Research indicates cloud seeding can increase precipitation by between 10 and 15 percent."

The company operates each year under a license from the Utah Water Resources Division. The division also is a North American customer, along with numerous counties, municipalities and local irrigation districts, he said, "to augment winter snowpacks."

And, for the third year, North American will be working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Brown said, to help improve Utah's water supply for the nation's second driest state.

"Water is crucial to everybody's needs here. The farmers need it, the cities need it, industry needs it, and tourism needs it because of all the ski resorts along the Wasatch Mountains," he said.

North American's 1988-89 water-year application calls for cloud-seeding operations in all of Grand, Morgan, Piute, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Wasatch, Washington and Weber counties.

And its crews propose to operate in the eastern portions of Beaver, Davis, Iron, Juab, Millard, Salt Lake, Tooele and Utah counties; in western Carbon, Duchesne, Garfield, Summit and Wayne counties; in northwestern Emery and Kane counties; and in northern Utah County.

The proposal for the coming year calls for the company's operations to run from Oct. 1 through May 1, 1989, Brown said, "but generally it's from November through March, during the main winter storm season."