Water is fundamental to all life. Today, it is also probably the most media effective element of nature. We regularly read about the millions of people who don’t have secure access to drinking water – currently it is a frightening eleven percent of the world’s population.

CLOUD FISHER –
HOW TO HARVEST WATER WITH NETS

Category: Innovation     Text: Nina Brehl

Photo: Aqualonis GmbH
Water is fundamental to all life. Today, it is also probably the most media effective element of nature. We regularly read about the millions of people who don’t have secure access to drinking water – currently it is a frightening eleven percent of the world’s population. There is an outcry in the press when companies like Nestlé want to privatise water and then sell it at a high price. And some political scientists fear that water shortages will be the cause of future wars. The fact that every individual has a right to water seems obvious at first, but to define such a right in concrete terms and thereby enable an effective distribution and supply of water is far more complex than it seems. Law scholars are trying to get to the bottom of the question of what a law for water might look like. How much water does a person need per day and exactly how should it be used? Does water have a price? What exactly are states obliged to do? And who is responsible for ensuring that this right is respected?
ABOVE THE CLOUDS
But even if these questions should be answered, one problem remains: water is scarce. Many engineers, climatologists and other bright minds have already set themselves the task of developing systems with which water can be used more sustainably. In Morocco, a water foundation in cooperation with the company Aqualonis is working on an efficient way to collect water. Where does the water come from? Fog. And there is plenty of it in Morocco. Although it rarely rains, the masses of warm air blowing in from the ocean bring a lot of water with them creating a hazy fog when they reach the peaks of the Atlas Mountains. A cloud in contact with the ground is the very definition of the silver-grey accumulations of tiny water droplets we call fog. So if you want to float carefree above the clouds like Reinhard Mey (‘Über Den Wolken’) all you have to do is dance into the misty dawn. Peter Trautwein, CEO of Aqualonis and his fog catchers also allow for a margin of error. What might sounds like the figure on a tarot card actually has little to do with mystical powers, rather, the laws of physics are what apply here.

Photos: Aqualonis GmbH
WATER SUPPLIES FOR HUMANS AND ANIMALS
High up on the summit of the mountain, perpendicular to the wind, the patented ‘Cloud Fisher’ are positioned to catch fog water. It sounds a bit like a Hollywood blockbuster again, but it’s quite a straightforward system. The cloud droplets adhere to the fine meshes of the nets, accumulate to form ever larger water spheres until gravity finally triumphs and transports them downwards into a collecting channel. With this method, at least 34,000 litres of drinking water can be harvested on a foggy day near the town of Sidi Ifni. The largest fog collector park in the world was recently completed there in cooperation with the Water Foundation. A total of 31 collectors stand here fishing in the fog. What is particularly remarkable is that the water obtained meets the standards of the World Health Organization and can be utilised immediately. In one of the driest areas of Morocco, the BMZ funded project now supplies 1250 people with fresh water and enables agriculture and the keeping of 700 livestock.
ITS NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS
Particularly in remote village communities with weak infrastructure, the fog networks can counteract water shortages and help to achieve the global goals set by the UN with a secure water supply for all people. The impact on the environment is minimal and the dark nets seem to blend seamlessly into the misty mountain landscape. Nevertheless, the success of these cloud fishermen depends on a multitude of factors. First of all, the regions’ potential must be analysed in pilot experiments lasting up to twelve months. If the climate doesn’t cooperate, the harvested quantities could drop to less than one litre per day, per square metre and it would become questionable whether the investment would pay off in the long term. The construction of the collectors is expensive and is usually supported by organisations like the Water Foundation. Once the financing has been clarified and the fog collectors are in place, there is a risk of faulty maintenance and a deterioration of the systems by the local population. The strong winds could destroy the networks and only a permanent evaluation of the harvested litres can stabilise the success of the project. Finally, the question remains as to whether the domestic government agrees to bear the maintenance costs and is willing to integrate the grids into the supply network.
TRENDSETTING
In order to counteract these risks, the Water Foundation works with carefully selected local NGOs. The organisation, which is based near Munich, now has a number of successful projects to look back on. While the exact definition of the human right to water is still being discussed elsewhere, charitable foundations and companies such as Aqualonis are already committed to its implementation with their innovative technologies.

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