DENVER Conspiracy theorists often believe the government is controlling the weather. It turns out, theyre right.
Its nothing new. Colorados government has overseen weather modification since the early 1950s.
On Thursday, state senators recommended the government continue to offer weather-modification licenses for at least another nine years.
The state government does not try to change the weather itself, but it offers licenses to people who do, including water districts, ski areas and farmers.
Their goal is to increase the water supply through more snowfall, or to avoid hail storms.
Most weather-changing devices burn silver iodide, which enters the sky as a storm approaches and gives raindrops and snowflakes a way to coalesce and fall to the earth. One farm in the San Luis Valley operates a hail cannon that tries to break up hailstones with sonic waves.
The state Department of Regulatory Affairs recommended continuing the program, said Brian Tobias, a DORA policy analyst.
Water is crucial to Colorado, and the state has an interest in it, Tobias said.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 4-3 to go forward with a bill that continues the licensing program. Without action by the Legislature this year, the state would stop offering licenses.
Its a felony to try to change the weather without a permit, under a law the Legislature passed in 1979.
Only eight entities do cloud-seeding in Colorado, and three are in Southwest Colorado. The city of Durango and water districts around Bayfield and Pagosa Springs run one program, the Animas-La Plata and Dolores water districts cooperate with Durango Mountain Resort on another, and a third centers on Telluride ski area.
Republicans voted against the bill Thursday.
Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said he wasnt sure cloud-seeding actually works.
Tobias agreed that cloud-seedings effectiveness is highly debatable.
Brophy, an Eastern Plains farmer, said even if cloud-seeding does work, it could rob downwind areas of precipitation.
If thats the case, then I think the Western Slope owes us some more water, Brophy said.
The bill will come back to the Senate Agriculture Committee later this year for further debate.