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The feisty fog-catchers of Chile

The feisty fog-catchers of Chile

23 comments

·June 30, 2022

zeristor

Previous tech that has come to light in recent years:

There a beetles with dimples on the shell which can collect fog moisture, I think this is being used to provide water.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1508-beetle-fog-catch...

https://news.mit.edu/2011/fog-harvesting-0421

Giving the nets an electrostatic charge which I believe also increases the amount of water that can be extracted.

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aao5323

However the article goes on to say that the land around is having less and less water. Perhaps the water table that fed the springs is falling due to extraction elsewhere?

Or that it was once replenished in the past and the rainfall pattern has changed.

Edit: links added

zeristor

“A chance to develop tourism near the Fray Jorge national park, a remnant of temperate rainforest which has survived thanks to its own natural fog-collection mechanism, brought Salvador Velásquez to his birthplace of Peral Ojo de Agua.”

Enhance. Oh, I’m not on TV.

Bosque de Fray Jorge National Park:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosque_de_Fray_Jorge_National_...

Charming short video about how this forest is able to naturally draw water from the fog, a marvel:

https://youtu.be/HYyiaFejWmo

googlryas

I visited Chile while on a random jaunt, ended up heading towards the observatories up north. La Silla was the first I stopped at, and for the entire drive between La Serena and the observatory, the mist over the mountains was most impressive. Install miles of these nets and you could have the world's biggest carbon neutral desalination plant.

aliswe

I'm really sorry for the nitpicking but this is not desalination :) it is a substitute for desalination though.

googlryas

As I see it, the sun is desalinating the ocean and the nets collect it, no?

mdp2021

Desalination is when you have salty water and remove salt.

Processing is when from some state you get a different one - here, your system already starts from "the different one" found in nature.

mdp2021

This article [in Spanish] about the "atrapanieblas" seems fairly informative:

https://lacontaminacion.org/atrapanieblas-un-sistema-efectiv...

ntrz

What sort of maintenance does it require? The article describes it as the biggest implementation hurdle, apparently to the extent that it doomed a previous effort along the same lines, but doesn't go into detail on what it entails. Repairing rips or tears in the nets themselves?

mdp2021

According to industrial producers of atrapanieblas, FogCollectors, at https://www.aqualonis.com/ , they «requir[e] no maintenance».

The maintenance mentioned may be a more basic, procedural one than a structural one. They seem to be relatively simple.

«When the nets wear out, the villagers will have to replace them at a cost of 100,000 pesos each» - that's ~100€|USD.

I am not sure where you read that «biggest implementation hurdle», if it was the sentence «The question is not whether the fog collectors work but who’s going to provide and maintain them», I do not read that so strongly.

ntrz

The reason I read it as being a major issue is that it is apparently (maybe I'm misreading this) described as the reason the previous effort failed:

> Earlier attempts to turn the mist into usable water failed. In 1990 fog nets at Chungungo, a fishing village north of Los Tomes, captured 8,000 litres a day. Villagers argued about how to share responsibility for maintaining the atrapanieblas.

It sounds like the nets worked, and the only negative element of the project described in the article that could account for the failure is the issues around maintenance. And then it's mentioned again in the context of open "questions" of the current project. But maybe the emphasis wasn't intended by the author, I may be reading too much into it.

mdp2021

No, I think the quotation meant: «Chile has been investigating fog capture since the 1950s [...] [BUT] earlier attempts to turn the mist into usable water failed [UNTIL, (e.g.)] in 1990 fog nets at Chungungo, a fishing village north of Los Tomes, captured 8,000 litres a day. Villagers argued about how to share responsibility for maintaining the atrapanieblas».

They started attempting to obtain water from fog in the '50s, until in the '90s the first working atrapanieblas were successfully deployed. "The villagers regarded it as a collective critical success and conversely a common responsibility".

bobthepanda

It mentions that the area has strong winds, and the nets are a bit pricey to replace.

mdp2021

The module specified in the article, as mentioned nearby, is around 100€|$.

According to an article I posted in the root,

> Un panel captaniebla es económico. Uno de 40 metros cuadrados está en el orden de los 1.000 a 1.500 dólares

It also says that the most common nets are made of plastic: so, there will be different standards and costs.

bobthepanda

So if this is near Coqiumbo, this cost of living calculator says average cost of living is $737 a month and median salary is $607. Which would make that probably fairly pricey for villagers making less than urban wages.

https://livingcost.org/cost/chile/coquimbo

aliswe

Maybe calcium buildup?

mdp2021

I doubt that fog carries calcium - though dust will surely be in the air.

dubswithus

There’s a project in Galapagos doing the same thing.

null

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benknight87

My favorite part of this article is the paywall about 2 paragraphs in.

mdp2021

The whole story about the "atrapanieblas" ("fog catchers"), graciously gratuitously provided by the online magazine itself, was extremely interesting.

It is quite normal that on the frontend potential readers are reminded that non-subsidized publishing risks cutting corners in quality and rigour.