Cloud seeding, which is the process of applying chemicals to a cloud to stimulate precipitation in order to create rainfall, has been used all over the world for decades according to Franco van der Merwe, Managing Director of Water Analytical Services (WAS).
Van der Merwe believes that South Africa can benefit from using this technology to enhance rainfall where it is needed most.
Clear benefits of cloud seeding for South Africa
Cloud seeding has numerous applications in the agriculture, events and tourism industries as well as for government as a means of securing water security in drought stricken areas.
South Africa has experimented with cloud seeding in the past but with the current drought crisis affecting the Cape region, now may be the time to revisit this technology.
“Whether it is used for encouraging rainfall in areas affected by the drought, or helping farmers in other parts of the country ensure rainfall for their crops, cloud seeding has clear benefits,” says van der Merwe.
“Looking at case studies around the word, we have seen how effective this technology is. It has the capability to provide much needed water security for farmers who would see the benefit of proper rainfall needed for their operations and decreased risk. This may even have a wider benefit to the insurance needed for crops.”
According to the WAS there are numerous cases backing up the effectiveness of cloud seeding worldwide. In one case, a team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research spent three years seeding clouds in the drought-stricken northern Mexican state of Coahuila.
They found that rainfall from seeded clouds lasted longer than rain from unseeded clouds, the rainfall covered a larger area, and that the total precipitation was higher – sometimes even doubled. In many cases, they reported that results began just 20 minutes after the seeding.
In spite of the potential of the technology, there are several concerns that have been raised regarding the measured success and the safety of cloud seeding. Van der Merwe is keen to dispel this apprehension, pointing out that over 50 years of research has led to what cloud seeding is today.
“Investment in cloud seeding technology has clear benefits for the private and public sectors in South Africa. Technology has the potential to improve our lives in every sphere – why not explore its ability to bring rain to those who need it most?” he concludes.