Ironically, the Legislature may consider funding both cloud seeding to increase snow, and more pumping of the Great Salt Lake - where flooding was caused by too much snow in the first place.
Officials told the Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Interim Committee Wednesday that both actions may be needed because of quirks in Utah's wet-then-dry-then-wet weather cycles.Rep. Ray Nielsen, D-Fairview, suggested that the state consider a comprehensive plan to seed clouds statewide next year.
He made the suggestion after the committee was shown projections that stream runoff this year in northern Utah will only be 50 to 60 percent of normal.
D. Larry Anderson, director of the State Division of Water Resources, said most cities and water agencies report they will have enough water to meet demands this dry year because of reservoir water carried over from previous wet years.
But water agencies say that if next year is also dry, they may not have enough water then to meet demands.
After Anderson said cloud-seeding programs in Salt Lake County and southern Utah this year increased the snow pack an estimated 10 to 15 percent, Nielsen said the state should study whether to fund expanded cloud seeding next year to help avoid another dry season.
Just moments later, the same committee turned its attention to whether the state should spend an additional $1 million to $1.5 million to allow additional pumping of the Great Salt Lake.
That lake is now at a level of 4,209.4 feet. By late July or August, Anderson said it will drop to 4,208.25 feet and at that point pumps could drain it no lower, unless a canal bringing water to those pumps was dredged and extended another mile or so. That would cost $1 million to $1.5 million.
While state officials have not yet formally recommended taking such action, Anderson said the relatively small cost would allow better protection of businesses along the lake's shore in case another wet season comes soon.
Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, asked Anderson how legislators could justify taking the two apparently contradictory actions of seeding clouds to create more snow and pumping the Great Salt Lake more to lower it because of flooding from too much snow.
"You could say Utah is a unique location," Anderson said. "We are trying to hold the lake down with the possibility that we could start a wet cycle again in two or three years." Meanwhile, he said, cloud seeding could help reduce the effects of a possible drought next year.