In a modern update of the ancient practice of collecting dew from stone walls, five villages in southwestern Morocco received drinking water from mountain fog for the first time this spring. Large mesh nets now capture water droplets suspended in the fogs that roll over Mount Boutmezguida in the Anti-Atlas range, and the fog water is then piped through a filtration system, partly powered by the sun. Although the semi-arid region has long suffered from drought, abundant fog forms from a serendipitous combination of atmospheric pressure and cold currents from the Canary Islands that create moisture-rich stratocumulus clouds. Fog harvesting, already under way in more than a dozen places, from Chile to Ethiopia, works best in high-altitude, rural areas with enough wind to push fog through the nets.
The nonprofit that developed the Moroccan project, Dar Si Hmad (named for Si Hmad Derhem, a local philanthropist), in conjunction with the Canadian NGO FogQuest and young men from the local communities, began building reservoirs and installing piping three years ago.
For generations, women from the villages walked up to four hours a day to fetch water, says Dar Si Hmad director Jamila Bargach. “It is important that the women keep that status as guardians of the water,” says Bargach. To that end, Dar Si Hmad helped teach women to send water-related text messages directly to them, bypassing the men who manage the system. Dar Si Hmad has also taught the women basic plumbing so that they can fix minor issues themselves. Last year, Bargach’s team opened a “water school”; the two-week summer program teaches children about water ecology, sustainability, and hygiene.
Now Bargach’s group is experimenting with next-generation nets that can withstand harsh mountain conditions and, they hope, yield more water.
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