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Trapping fog, alternative to lack of water in Chile

Trapping fog, alternative to lack of water in Chile

Average rainfall is less 0.1mm per year and in many regions it has not rained for decades.

But even if the rain is scarce, the clouds are loaded with moisture.

Fog forms on the Chilean coast and then moves inland in the form of cloud banks. The locals call this mist "camanchaca".

It is made up of tiny drops of water. They are so light that they do not fall as rain.

Hunting for drops with a net

In 1956, during a particularly severe drought, scientist Carlos Espinosa Arancibia had an idea.

This retired physicist and mathematician from the University of Chile carried out a series of experiments in the highest mountains near the city of Antofagasta.

There, he came up with the idea of ​​the fog catcher: a net with small openings of about 1mm to capture the small water droplets in the mist.

The droplets collect in the web and form larger droplets that eventually fall off the web into a channel below.

From there, they are channeled through a spout into containers at the base of the mountains and the water is ready to use.

The investigation continues today.

Beer with mist water


The city of Peña Blanca has one of the largest fog catcher study centers. There, in the hills that surround the city, there are six large networks.

Nicolás Schneider, technical advisor, says that thanks to these devices they have managed to combat desertification in the region.

He says that now there are 100 hectares covered with plants that were formerly typical of the area.

"We are planning to provide water from the fog catchers in the near future to local families," says Schneider.

In the center of the community there is a small building that also uses the same water: the town's craft brewery.

"Fog Catcher" is a small company. It produces about 24,000 liters per year. Its owner, Miguel Carcuro, is proud.

"The camanchaca water is of excellent quality and gives the beer a very special flavor," he explains.

Export product

Supporters of this project say that fog catchers are cheap and sustainable.

An average size (40 square meters) costs between $ 1,000 and $ 1,500, depending on the material.

They also say that the environmental impact is minimal, since the metal posts can be hidden discreetly in the middle of the vegetation.

As the water is transported towards the base of the hills by the force of gravity, there are no additional transport costs.

The idea has already been exported to other arid regions in Peru and Mexico.

The largest extension with fog catchers is in Tojquia, Guatemala. There are 60 there that trap 4,000 liters of water per day.

Pilar Cereceda, from the University of Chile, says she hopes that within a decade Chile will have enough fog catchers to meet the demand of the entire Atacama region.

"I dream of the day when fog catchers can compete with desalination plants, which are not environmentally friendly."

BBC


Video: #02 Fog Catchers in Atacama Desert - Living Atlas Chile (September 2021).