It takes only a few seconds. Simply turn on the tap and there it is – bubbling and fresh: water, the essential element of life. In regions with infrastructure and proper sanitation systems, water supply is taken for granted and it is often forgotten that millions of people in other areas of the world have to spend hours or even days just walking to fetch water. It is a major problem and does not only impact the developing world. The UN estimates that by 2025, two thirds of the world population will suffer from water shortage.
There is an acute need for innovative solutions taking into account different natural conditions and local circumstances – and that’s what fog collectors do. The basic idea behind the device is the usage of fog as a source of clean water. Most of the collectors use meshes made of polypropylene or polyethylene materials that allow the capture of tiny water droplets from fog. Once the fog reaches the net, the droplets cling to the mesh, coalesce into a drain gutter and are finally collected in a water tank. Best-suited in high elevation areas with light winds, modern fog collectors can be also installed on uneven surfaces. In high and rocky terrain, the water is transported through pipelines down into the villages, where the water is urgently needed.
The technology, as simple as it is brilliant, is being implemented by various actors. FogQuest, a non-profit-organisation based in Canada, has established fog collectors all around the world, including arid villages in Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nepal. Mountain areas in Peru receive only 1.5 centimetres of rainfall per year – seven fog collectors produce more than 2000 litres of water a day! It goes without saying that the collectors have a great impact on the communities improving the supply of drinking water and making even gardening possible. Growing plants that require little water become fog collectors themselves, thereby enhancing the volume of water collection in a natural way.
Researchers in the US, Australia and China now are working on a new technology for fog harvesting that could even work in urban areas. Inspired by nature, they take the Namib Beetle as a role model in order to develop a material that can collect water particles in a much more efficient way than meshes can. The Namib Beetle is an African species that collects water droplets on its special coated back channelling the water right into its mouth.
For those who want to learn more on fog harvesting, FogQuest offers some interesting FAQs. Check it out!
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