Fog Harvesting in Western South America

Fog Harvesting

People live all over the planet, but life is tough where there is little water.  Desert populations are low, unless you can import water, or suck it from ancient underground aquifers as has been done in Arizona and Saudi Arabia.  But even without the help of pipelines, water trucks, or drilling wells, some communities in lands of very sparse rainfall have found a way to get enough water to live comfortably.  Do you know how they get it?

It doesn’t work everywhere, but in some places that are certifiable deserts, there is a lot of fog. This is common along the coastal cliffs of western South America in parts of Ecuador, Peru and Chile where desert lands run all the way to the sea. Well, that’s nice, you may think, so you can be sort of damp all over while you die of thirst! But some clever thinkers realized that by erecting nets of very fine strands, heavy fog could be “trapped”, the condensate collected as it dripped down into trays, with the water thence flowing to pipes. Doesn’t seem like it would produce all that much water, but it does! For you guys with facial hair, think how wet your moustache or beard gets when you walk on the beach on a foggy day. Same principle.

Banks of fog nets have been a boon to poor communities that are far from water sources, or which have no funding to tap into the nearest urban supplier. While none of these towns will be constructing a water slide amusement park any time soon, a fog net system in one Chilean locale increased per-person daily water availability from just over 3 gallons of expensive trucked-in water, to as much as 14 gallons of far cheaper netted fog. People can take a shower every day, an unheard of luxury in the past.

So the next time you’re stuck with a problem you can’t seem to solve, remember that the solution may be all around you, blowing in the wind.

Photos: Anne Lummerich, BBC News


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