Watering Deserts

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The increasing desertification of the planet due to climate change is a serious threat to future humans,  so technology that can create water in deserts is arguably one of the more critical technologies that we need to master.

Wacky ideas that purport to solve serious climate issues are a dime a dozen, but ones that have actually proven themselves – by actually working in the real world – are welcome news.


At two years into successful operation on the largely arid Arabian peninsula, the “fog catcher” is such a concept. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!

Collaborating with Mitsubishi, the desert state of Oman began a five-year test of a fog collection project, two years ago. The idea is to catch the moisture in sea breezes and trap it in a special mesh that is designed for the purpose, store it in a reservoir, and use it to plant seedlings in the desert.

Suspended perpendicular to incoming sea breezes in the coastal Al Qara mountains, 9-foot tall, 60-foot long mesh nets catch the fog.

The simple device invented by Fogquest is suspended next to a reservoir to hold the captured water. Moisture caught in the mesh drips down to a reservoir holding tank capable of storing 14,000 cubic feet of water.

Now, two years into the five year test, results are very good. Just like Redwood trees that capture and store coastal fog in California, this mesh, in the absence of trees in the region, is doing the job that trees do, and is capturing the water that trees will eventually need, in order to grow, so that they can ultimately take over the job themselves.

By the end of the five year test, in 2013, 1,000 tree seedlings will have been planted with a little of the stored water, creating a greenbelt. In the meantime, the reservoir will continue to be added to each year, so there is a secure, ongoing supply of water to keep them growing over the years. The trees are fenced off so that livestock can’t eat them.

The plantings should help reverse four decades of desertification in parts of Oman.

Image: Flikr user Louis Carnage and Angela Shah

Source: Green Source Construction

Susan Kraemer @Twitter

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