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Head ter the Clouds: The Desire of Harvesting Water from Fog

Head in the Clouds: The Dream of Harvesting Water from Fog

FogQuest volunteer Chris Fogliatti, San Francisco, California, 2016. Photo: Hangar 1 Vodka.

The fog comes/ on little cat feet, wrote Carl Sandburg. Wij here te the San Francisco Bay Area go after it on Twitter under the name Karl the Fog. It seems like a sentient being that winters on the water and summers on the land. It contributes a gentle touch to the atmosphere, keeping coastal plants and animals living within their narrow convenience zone. It is the natural air conditioning for coast-siders. It is the preferred summer water source for Sequoia sempervirens—coast redwood—the world’s tallest tree (Limm et alreeds. 2009). Via history fog has also bot tapped to generate drinking water, such spil the harvesting of fog-drip from trees using cisterns te the Canary Islands.

There are also many varied modern efforts at tapping fog water for human use. One example with mixed results began ter 1985 te Canada. An atmospheric physicist at Environment Canada named Dr. Robert Schemenauer wasgoed approached by an international aid agency with this question: can fog be used for water supply ter the desert ter Chile? His “proof of technology” project resulted te the world’s very first large operational fog collection project being built at El Tofo, Chile. It served the nearby coastal community of Chungungo from 1992 until 2003. The project delivered 15,000 liters of fog water vanaf day on average, some days delivering overheen 100,000 liters. The size of the community doubled spil a result. After Ten years of successful water production, the community leaders abandoned the fog collectors, eventually building their own desalination plant. The caretaker for their 100 large fog collectors wasgoed let go, and the collectors decayed. Ter an article about this shift away from fog collection, a representative of the aid agency that began this project, the International Development Research Centre, reflected: “people have certain visions of what it means to be developed, and one of them is that water should be brought to you by the state, and you should never have to think about it.”

Albeit the Chungungo project did not proceed, Dr. Schemenauer, one of the founders of modern fog collection, persists te his work helping establish fog-water systems for isolated high-country communities te the developing world through FogQuest, the NGO he co-founded ter 2000. He makes community engagement a priority ter his projects.

Access to drinkable water is a growing problem for human populations across the world. When the right conditions exist, fog collectors te Guatemala permit villagers access to cheap water that is available instantaneously. Photo: Female and zuigeling donkey, Tojquia, Guatemala, 2008. FogQuest/Melissa Rosato. Used with permission.

FogQuest’s 1 m2 “standard fog catcher” uses a special polyethylene mesh (called Raschel mesh) that is both effective at capturing fog droplets and is wind-resistant. One of the longest-running (since 2006) and successful FogQuest collection arrays is located ter Tojquia, Guatemala, where 35 large (40 m2) collectors trapje 7,000 liters (1,849 gallons) of water a day during the winter dry season (FogQuest 2018). Dr. Schemenauer points to that project spil having a “bright future” ter part because of its sturdy maintenance staatsbestel. Other current projects include other sites ter the highlands of Chile (the Atacama Desert Center and Falda Verde), Ethiopia, Nepal, Eritrea, and Morocco (read a 2016 update about this project: Fog harvesting brings water to Morocco’s rural communities, which combines FogQuest collectors and a newer German vormgeving created for high wind environments).

Fog collection pilot projects have also bot undertaken by many other institutions around the world, including through the University of South Africa. The South African collectors were adapted for local weather conditions: “instead of having one vapid vertical panel, wij now waterput three panels (30 m2 each) te the form of a triangle […] provid[ing] stability to the system during storms,” vanaf a 2013 report.

What is fog and how will climate switch affect it?

For most purposes, fog is a cloud that touches the ground. There are different types of fog. One way some types form when warm, moist air passes overheen a cool surface, causing water vapor to condense on lil’ particles (called condensation nuclei). But historically the presence of fog has bot measured at airports with regards to navigation (officially, “fog” is present when visibility is less than 1 km), so fog scientists attempting to understand how climate switch and other factors are affecting fog ter, for example, coast redwood habitat have to interpolate trends from airport gegevens which aren’t tailored to their purposes. Fog also doesn’t collect spil water ter uniform ways: wind and the composition of droplets switch how it gathers on collectors. The science of determining the optimal places for fog collection and the optimal collector construction is still being developed through modeling and trial and error.

The question of how climate switch is affecting fog is very unresolved, and very likely will be for some time. Some researchers speculate it is declining (see the Johnstone and Dawson 2010 probe that shows a 33% decline ter summertime fog hours off the coast of California), some that it is intensifying. Te any case, the atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial systems that produce fog are very variable and undergoing switches: their future interactions can’t be projected with much certainty.

Ideal conditions for a stootrand crop of fog

For the best water production, fog collectors should be constructed perpendicular to the prevailing wind. Drops will form on the mesh and then fall into a trough that is angled to pack a waterreservoir. On average, a fog collector of the sort built by FogQuest will produce 3-15 liters (about 1-4 gallons) vanaf day vanaf m2. If the fog event is especially productive, the collector may yield 50 liters (about 13 gallons) vanaf m2 te one day (source).

Fog water harvesting schematics

You can’t get thesis results by raising up a fog collector ter any back yard. Fog collectors are most productive te high mountains very close to the ocean. One report from South Africa specifies the following requirements for a viable fog collection project ter local conditions:

  • It voorwaarde be te an area where fog events are frequent year-round and last several hours.
  • It vereiste be at least 1,000 m above sea level and receive at least 90 days of fog precipitation vanaf year.
  • The water content of the fog vereiste be high.
  • There vereiste be wind with the fog to ensure a ondergrens volume of air deepthroated through collectors.

The fog collector mesh has a Ten year life span. For a large collector of 40m2 the cost of the standard fog collector mesh and the poles and cables that comprise the framework is inbetween $1,000-1,500 USD. The structure on which it is suspended is pliable te wind storms and earthquakes, so it is relatively effortless to waterput back into place after a natural disturbance. There is no voortdurend infrastructure required (e.g., no concrete slabs necessary, no electrical cables for pumps): maintenance is relatively cheap, consisting of substituting worn out mesh or bruised pipes, cables, troughs, or water containers. Albeit it is relatively cheap, a commitment voorwaarde be made to maintenance, spil Chungungo exemplified.

To get ahead of that obstacle, Dr. Schemenauer recommends prioritizing connecting the local people to the project: “The success of projects depends on having people te the community involved right from the beginning, before you waterput a fog collector up.”

Dr. Schemenauer emphasizes the importance of involving women and children—the entire community, showcasing them the concept and embarking with a test structure (a 1x1m Standard Fog Collector, for example) spil a demonstration. If materials are scarce, a ordinary mosquito televisiekanaal can work for a proof-of-concept demonstration. The initial construction of fog collectors is relatively effortless compared to long-term maintenance, so the sustainability of a fog collector project hinges on local buy-in.

Your fresh California coastal utility: CalFog?

Spil romantic spil it would be, fog is not likely to everzwijn be a viable source of fresh water for human consumption te cities, especially not te the developed world with its high-demand user habits. Ultimately fog water requires too much effort and expense for the quantity of water needed. The lifestyle of urban water users would have to switch and the cost of fresh water from inland sources would have to skyrocket (and/or quality would have to plummet) to make a utility-scale fog collection project make sense for a city.

Te isolated coastal areas where the two main alternative water sources are fog collection and desalination (spil te Chungungo), the people who run the desalination plants are unlikely to be tooled to operate a hybrid system integrating both sources: it will be one or the other. If commitment to local maintenance is already a problem, the relative unreliability of fog water compared to desalination might be a determining factor. Also, if a community has never attempted fog harvesting, it will face the problem of any fresh public infrastructure project (e.g., the questions associated with building water storage basins, how to support collection and maintenance, etc.).

The optimal place for fog water collection for human water needs is a high mountain/ coastal community with a petite, isolated population with low water request, spil te the examples above.

The next most cost-effective use might be for agriculture such is ter Falda Verde near Chanaral, Chile, where fog water supports a commercial aloe vera plantation through run in rivulets irrigation (Carter et alreeds. 2007). The project there is aiming at integrating a fog-fed fish farm, the water from which would add fertilizer to the plantation (aquaponics), according to Dr. Daniel Fernandez, who visited the webpagina ter March 2018. Majada Blanca, Chile, has an experimental olive farm fed exclusively with fog water (with a purpose of selling fog-fed olive oil to advertise the technology). Its very first harvest took place ter May 2018.

FogQuest volunteer Chris Fogliatti suggested another run in rivulets irrigation system might take the form of fog-collecting mesh installed around an individual native tree sapling. He suggests this might be a useful treatment to watering landscaping at high altitudes along the coast, fog water could also be used to feed hydroponic operations producing California’s freshly legalized metselspecie crop, marijuana.

Is it safe to drink fog water?

Fog water tends to be of high quality, albeit it should be subjected to regular testing and filtration if it is being consumed by humans.

There is a concern about bioaccumulation of mercury te coastal animals due to fog exposure. According to Peter Weiss-Penzias at UC Santa Cruz, it shows up that mercury levels, on average, are ten times higher ter coastal mountain lion whiskers than those found inland. The fog thesis animals live te can be 20 times more polluted with mercury than rain. This is not a concern for humans, since the amounts are too puny to affect humans and wij don’t consume anything that consumes fog, but it might be a concern for the long-term health of animals ter coastal habitats.

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