This Device Collects Water From the Clouds

Mesh billboards on the Moroccan mountainside will soon be joined by numerous others—a planned 31 in all—to create the world’s largest fog collection facility. (Aqualonis)  

Mesh billboards on the Moroccan mountainside will soon be joined by numerous others—a planned 31 in all—to create the world’s largest fog collection facility. (Aqualonis)
 

On a dry, rocky slope of Mount Boutmezguida in southwest Morocco, a series of mesh billboards stand perched among the scrubby vegetation. Anchored with thick cables and framed with steel poles, they provide a life-giving element that people in many parts of the world take for granted: water.

People living in regions where water is scarce spend hours each day tracking it down from sources that are often severely contaminated. UN-Water, the United Nations’ water agency, estimates that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be impacted by water scarcity—a similar number of people currently rely on water that is faecally contaminated. And this reality disproportionately affects women, who in many regions are tasked with finding water; girls are pulled out of school to complete the job.

But despite the lack of rain in many coastal regions—Chile, Eritrea, Morocco—clouds of fog frequently shroud the landscape. And clouds mean water.

Harvesting this fog is far from new. Accounts of the Ferro “rain tree” in the Canary Islands that collected fog or mist on its leaves stretch back hundreds of years. In recent decades, however, researchers have tirelessly worked to improve collection technologies.

CloudFisher is one of the latest fog-catching devices, billed as the most rugged available. Those lonesome mesh billboards on the Moroccan mountainside will soon be joined by numerous others—a planned 31 in all—to create the world’s largest fog collection facility. The project is an international collaboration between the Moroccan NGO Dar Si Hmad and several German organizations, including CloudFisher’s parent company Aqualonis. By mid-2018, after five years of work, the cluster of mesh billboards will cover a total of 1,700 square meters—just over three football fields in area.

Depending on the region and the time of year, the CloudFisher’s daily water harvest has been between six and 22 liters per square meter of mesh, according to Aqualonis’ website. In Morocco, they are expected to net the high end of that range. Once the Moroccan installation is complete, Aqualonis estimates the system will produce roughly 37,400 liters of water per foggy day.

“That's a huge amount—can you imagine?” says Peter Trautwein, CEO of Aqualonis who designed CloudFisher. This total will provide each of the thousand or so inhabitants of the area around 18 liters of water per day for drinking, with leftovers used for livestock and crops. This is more than double their previous supply of eight liters per day, he says.


Read the full article at Smithsonian.com