How Fog Harvesting Technology Provides Sustainable Clean Water for Villages
How one device frees 40 billion hours of women and children's time.
Fog isn’t just for rock concerts and horror movies. With the help of the fog-harvesting system CloudFisher, fog can also be turned into clean water for drinking.
The easy-to-assemble mesh setups, located in places like Mount Boutmezguida in southwest Morocco, have changed the lives of residents in surrounding villages, taking something once perceived as dangerous to a reliable liquid blessing: drinkable water.
A video posted by ATTN last Sunday featuring the Water Foundation’s fog-harvesting nets collected 934,000 views and 16,320 shares on Facebook.
What the Fog?
The idea of harnessing water through condensation pops up throughout history, from Bronze Age dew-ponds in England to modern survivalist strategies of mashing up the right cactus. With 700 million people worldwide already suffering from water scarcity as of 2013, according to the Global Water Institute, the time for innovative collection systems is now.
When the Water Foundation and Munich Re Foundation (together, creating the FogNet Alliance) noticed heavy fog surrounding nearby mountains in the dry, rugged Lesser Atlas mountain range in Morocco, they decided to give an older technology a shot: fog-collection.
The technique is straightforward: let the wind push fog through nets that collect droplets, allowing the liquid to drip down into tubes to be piped to nearby villages. But when the NGO installed a fog-collection system in Eritrea in 2007, they were dismayed to see high winds damage the systems, leaving the nets unraveling, cable anchors loosening, and collection troughs buckling under storm damage. Especially since villages already tight on resources don’t have the time, or potentially the knowledge needed, to repai these systems.
So the NGO partnered with aqualonis to create a new and improved version: the CloudFisher. Between 2013 and 2016, the team prototyped 10 different types of fabric, prioritizing low maintenance in the design. UV-resistant and food-safe, the final 3D mesh system is the first fog collector that can withstand wind speeds up to 120 kilometers per hour (almost 75 miles per hour). It takes only two tools to install and comes in three sizes, ranging from 1 to 54 square meters of fog-collecting mesh. Depending on fog levels and wind speed, the system has harvested anywhere between 11,500 to 75,600 liters of water per square meter in a year. The villagers pay a small price to keep the collectors operational, but the gains are unparalleled.
How CloudFisher Frees Communities
The effects of the CloudFisher ripple beyond the physical ability to turn a tap and have access to potable water. Researcher Leslie Dodson saw firsthand how the hours women and children typically spent fetching water — across the globe, their collective time adds up to 40 billion hours per year — were suddenly free.
“There’s the pipes. There’s the technology,” says Dodson in a video. “But then there’s women’s programs which might be literacy, which might be numeracy. Children’s programs, that’s the water school. There’s work for men. So I think that what this water project does is set in motion really big changes in the community.”
At full installation, the 15 CloudFisher collectors at 1,225 meter elevation on Mount Boutmezguida supplies 18 liters of water to roughly 1,150 villagers per day. By the numbers, it’s a small dent in the millions suffering from water scarcity, but the CloudFisher’s impact on the lives of those further down the mountain is anything but.
Related video: Watch NASA Shoot Almost Half a Million Gallons of Water Into the Air