Could Harvesting Fog Help Solve the World’s Water Crisis?
“There are few places where life is so harsh,” Pablo Neruda wrote, describing his native Chile’s Atacama Desert. “It takes untold sacrifices to transport water there, to nurse a plant that yields even the humblest flower, to raise a dog, a rabbit, a pig.”
The Atacama is famously dry, receiving, in some areas, only a few hundredths of an inch of rain per year. In order to subsist in this environment, indigenous animal species such as the guanaco—a wild relative of the llama—have developed a range of innovative strategies. When the great banks of sea fog known as the camanchacas sweep in off the Pacific Ocean, for example, the guanaco drink, very gingerly, the resulting condensation from the spines and flowers of the Echinopsis deserticola cactus. It is a remarkable act of survival in an inhospitable landscape.
March 22nd marks the twenty-third annual observance of World Water Day, an initiative overseen by U.N.-Water, which bills itself as “the United Nations inter-agency mechanism on all freshwater related issues.” It also marks the first anniversary of an ambitious international collaboration between Dar Si Hmad, a Moroccan N.G.O., and several German partner organizations to bring potable water to the Aït Baâmrane tribal region of southwest Morocco using a technology called CloudFisher.
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