SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — As California’s drought lingers on and reservoirs dry up, small planes are trying to coax the water to come down.

“We just help Mother Nature along a little bit,” said Steven Kellerman, who’s a bonafide cloud seeder.

“Clouds are very inefficient with the water they have,” he said. “A cloud is visible moisture and if gets heavy enough it the precipitation will drop out of the cloud, but it needs something to condense on to.”

He flies in dangerous conditions through cold temperatures and ice. “Pilots refer to it as ‘the soup’ because if you were to imagine yourself floating around under a bowl of milk, like in milk, that’s what it looks like,” he said.

Once he’s up there, he gives the clouds a silver lining using pyrotechnic flares that release silver iodide in the cloud. The hope is whatever moisture is in the cloud will bond to the silver iodide and create snow or rain.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District spends about $25,000 a month on it and says its working. Engineers also cloud seeding can enhance precipitation by 7 to 15 percent. And right now with California’s reservoirs at 50 percent capacity, every bit helps.

But cloud seeding is not the answer to the drought.

“I’d be lying if I said I never joke with my friends about making it rain, but in reality I don’t,” Kellerman said. “We provide the tools for the cloud to become more efficient.”

Kellerman says that’s because you first need clouds to seed. And without those, he’s grounded and the rest of us are tapped out.


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