A Ground-breaking Project: Harvesting Water from Fog

Major Highlights:

The largest of its kind

The largest functioning fog collection project in the world, our system has brought positive change to communities and the environment.

Cutting-edge CloudFisher technology

Using a revolutionary tool in fog-collection technology, our CloudFisher nets, designed by volunteer engineer Peter Trautwein of the Wasserstiftung Foundation, and Aqualonishave proven to be twice as effective, following an extended experimental period at our site.

Fighting the impacts of climate change

Our system allows for the independence of Amazigh women in Ait Baamrane by delivering potable water to their households, so the women don’t have to, thereby contributing to their adaptation to climate change.

Following a holistic approach

Dar Si Hmad participates in extensive research and development in engineering, and climate monitoring, while maintaining a close partnership with its beneficiary community.

Artistic Inspiration

Moroccan Artist Hassan Darsi built a 3D interpretation of our fog project, dubbed the “Sacred Lieu:  Boutmezguida.”

Fog as a research and teaching tool

Our fog project spurred the creation of the Water School — a locally-led environmentally focused education program for the younger generation in Ait Baamrane.

Increased visibility

The fog project has brought renewed interest and a greater national and international visibility to often overlooked region of Ait Baamrane and Southwest Morocco. 

A mountaintop fog observatory

Dar Si Hmad founded a Fog Research Center atop Mount Boutmezguida to ensure continuous scientific monitoring of the nets.

Optimal Conditions for Harvesting Fog


In the case of Morocco, the anticyclone of the Azores and the cold current of the Canary Islands create evaporation and pressure, resulting in stratocumulus clouds – clouds whose lower half tends towards the earth- and whose particles are full of water. The wind pushes the clouds towards the mountains, a place cooler than the beachfront, and it is in this natural barrier where Dar Si Hmad installed its fog collection units. These conditions are present in Morocco from the Sidi Ifni region to the south of Essaouira and from Tangier into Nador. This mountain fog is exploitable and this technique is very economical for mountainous areas that are often water poor.

In addition, the fogwater harvesting system we are using is an example of integrated water resource management (IWRM) which considers water resources as integral to the ecosystem as well as social and economic goods. DSH’s fogwater project includes participatory water management to support interconnected uses of water for agriculture, healthy ecosystems, human consumption, and livelihoods. The fog project alleviates water-anxiety, produces potable water surpassing national health standards, and uses sun-powered pumps instead of any fossil energy. Dar Si Hmad is now preparing a project to recycle grey water for agricultural purposes.

Social Context of the Project:


Scarce water, compromised wells, and climate change-induced droughts have destabilized traditional Amazigh communities and have created heavy burdens on marginalized women.

Traditional water-management in this region was predicated on parsimonious water use; people used to hand-dig wells and build cisterns for rainwater catchment to meet their needs. Modern techniques for finding water using drilling machines to reach water stored deep in aquifers cause pollution, are expensive, and are unsustainable. Given the increasing cycles of drought, the scarcity of rain, and low aquifer recharge rates, fog is an excellent, reliable, sustainable, and supplemental water resource that relieves pressure on aquifers and wells.

The communities of the region, like many other geographically similar areas, are suffering from great anxiety concerning the lack of water and the recurrence of droughts. Rural poor families in Aït Baamrane live in ecologically fragile zones where water is scarce, topsoil is eroded, and drought is on the rise. Vulnerable populations and fragile zones overlap, producing added burdens on the residents.

Women, in particular, were devoting 3.5 hours daily to the chore of fetching water. Given the lack of rainfall (<112 mm / year), water was a major concern for survival especially during the dry season, not only for humans, but for livestock and for the biotope in general. In response, many households migrated to cities, and sold their livestock. Cultural heritage and ancient practices including Tashelheet (The Amazigh language) were no longer handed down; flora and Argan trees deteriorated because of lack of pruning and maintenance.

Today, with water delivered to households, the impact is measurable. The main beneficiaries of the project are:
– The Ait Baamrane communities, especially women and young girls (5 villages, a set of 400 permanent residents, in addition to the migrant population that comes in summer);


– The local environment (flora and fauna) via increased water for plants and soil, and the region in general via media coverage that the project receives;


– The local associations and civil society, which were inspired by the project and with whom we are currently organizing a transfer of knowledge;


– The fog itself, which is seen increasingly as a viable source for water through research and development;


– Children who benefit from innovative teaching they receive at our Water School;

Boutmezguida: A Decade Long Engagement

The fog-collecting nets were  erected by Dar Si Hmad atop Mount Boutmezguida, (29o12’30”N – 10o 01’30”W, 1225 m d’altitude), located in the Aït Baamrane territory of Southwest Morocco for a specific reason. This area, on the edge of the Sahara and some 35 km from the Atlantic Ocean, is classified as pre-Saharan, with an arid climate and low rainfall (annual average of 112 mm). Although its drought is endemic, its frequency and intensity have increased since the 1980s. A hot Saharan wind called the Chergui sometimes blows over the region and dries it even further. However, while Southwest Morocco is water-poor, abundant fog drapes the area six months of the year, for a total of 143 days. Fog collection is an ancient system used to collect clean water in regions where fog abounds that is non-invasive and ecologically friendly.

Histogram:

2006
Launch of an observation period for evaluation of water potential in Boutmezguida
2011
Validation of the results
June 2011 to June 2014
Construction of 600 m² nets on top of Mt. Boutmezguida
November 2013
Launch of the pilot phase, with our German partners, Wasserstiftung, testing the new generation of fog-catching nets
September 2014 to March 2015
Construction of all piping and connection of all pilot douars
March 21, 2015
Official inauguration of the project (large media coverage) and the beginning of access to drinking water from fog
October 2015
Conclusion of the pilot phase of the new generation of nets called CloudFisher
December 2015
Study and validation, launch fundraising
May 2016
BMZ granting funds to our German partners, Wasserstiftung
September 2016
Technology transfer in the region of Essaouira and Aït -Baha - UNFCCC Prize received at COP22 honoring the fog project and in particular its commitment to women.
January 2017
Start of construction of CloudFishers, in all 13 villages to be supplied with drinking water - Ongoing engagement with the community, men, women and children

In addition to creating extensive infrastructure in the region, pipelines, storage tanks, and controls were built so that water process moves to households in a continuous and sustainable manner.

Major Achievements

Women actively participate and become involved and enthusiastic project supporters despite strong traditional constraints during the project launch;

Water availability allows poor farmers to keep their livestock which they previously might have sold during increasingly frequent droughts that lower the water table, driving farmers into vicious cycles of poverty;

Men, women, and children are proud to be the custodians of this unique project and open their homes to journalists and visitors;

The project serves to stabilize the role of water in the environment and for the population, and to inspire greater stewardship of the environment;

Delivery of fog water significantly reduced women’s laborious water-gathering chores and helps to foster stable communities, continuation of ancestral languages, and ways of living and thriving in local environments;

Potable water is delivered to the households and everyone contributes to the maintenance of the system by regularly paying water fees;
High visibility in the region as well as new, increased attention to rural and arid landlocked regions;

Water-gathering chores took up to 3.5 hours/day and often interrupted, or prevented, girls from regularly attending school; this is now a practice of the past;

Children, beneficiaries of our Water School, are given an environmental education and become ambassadors of the environment contributing to the preservation of natural resources;
An active process of adaptation to climate change;
Contribution to the growing trend of considering fog as valid alternative resource for water in arid regions.

The Anthropological Dimension of Fog

Fog is not only a natural phenomenon, it is interpreted and lived by humans, who give it an identity and ascribe it with a role. The cultural ecology of the Ait Baamrane region reveals that fog, Tagut, is essentially negative: it prevents precipitation, causes humidity which rusts plowing and other equipment, wets livestock and sometimes makes passage to pastures slippery and dangerous. The fog also produces moisture, asemidd, making humans easily fall sick and, therefore, be prey to a “cold,” potentially leading to more serious disease. Symbolically, fog denotes a state of non-clarity, confusion, and loss of visual and other references. The idea of lack of visibility causes great discomfort both physically and culturally. In many ways, fog is not considered to carry positive charge.  Community members initially doubted that fog was a safe source of water. Through continuous community training and trust-building, residents now welcome this steady, clean water supply. Women, who are traditional water-guardians, were hesitant to participate in managing the water system, but through user-centered design approaches, Amazigh women now manage the water system with their mobile phones to send SMS messages about its status.


With the positive results of the Boutmezguida project, seeing with their own eyes water created from fog, women and men started to accept fog and see it as a vital life force. For DSH this is one of the major transformations brought about by this project. Today, Tagut is valued as a resource.

A Map for the Future


Where there is fog, there is the possibility of harvesting it to meet human needs. While the current FogQuest net-system is valid and works well, challenges for these standard nets exist when the winds are strong. Infrastructure challenges include severe landscapes, searing heat, extreme wind, and difficult access. DSH is now ready for next-generation nets that can withstand harsh conditions and increase fogwater yield. With our partner Wasserstiftung (which also operates two similar projects, one in Eritrea and one in Ghana), we tested a new generation of nets, CloudFisher, whose performance is 2 times better (average of 22L / d m2) and which require very little maintenance (for instance cleaning of gutters). These nets are sturdier because they are backed by a hard plastic structure and can resist winds of up to 120km / h.

What Peter Trautwein, the engineering volunteer with WasserStiftung, with funds from Munich Re, has allowed us to do since 2013 with the CloudFisher project, is to conduct  a thorough and innovative pilot test that embodies the fundamental principles of sound engineering; robust experimental design, methodological data collection, state‐of‐the‐art modeling, real‐scale prototyping, on‐site implementation and honest & thorough evaluation. Through careful planning and execution, Mr. Trautwein and his team have been able to achieve nothing short of a quantum leap in the functionality of fog harvesting technology. The new prototype not only addresses structural limitations of previous designs but has dramatically increased the overall potential water yield of the system through intelligent development of a fog net system that incorporates multiple permutations of the net materials themselves. In addition to vastly improving the key aspects of the structure and nets of the system, the CloudFisher system also contains innovative components designed to improve the overall effectiveness of the system for transferring water from the nets to the collection system. While many other previous and contemporary fog net designs have tended to overlook elements such as the collection troughs, cable stays, and network connections, deeming them merely incidental, Mr. Trautwein and his team have devoted a great deal of attention to these areas, which has led to a substantial increase in the overall performance of the system.

After the experimental period (November 2013-October 2015), the BMZ is now funding the construction of 1,600 m² of CloudFisher nets to connect a total of 13 douars in Boutmezguida. We, in turn, are transferring the knowledge and building two new projects with local associations, one in Essaouira and one in Aït Baha.  Both locations are water poor and fog rich. You can see the trajectory of our research and work here.

Because of our commitment to research and development, DSH’s Fog Observatory exists to conduct research on fog and reforestation, and to monitor the transfer of Sahara sand to America and Europe for study. All of these activities involve members of our community and researchers from all parts of the world to better serve and protect our environment.

Major Players in the Fog Collection Project

The local communities, Sidi Ifni Province,  and the rural community authorities of Tnine Amellou, Tanguerfa, and Mesti

  • Funders:
    • Derhem Holding, Laayoune and Casablanca, Morocco
    • Promotion Nationale, Rabat, Morocco
    • Dar Si Hmad pour le Développement, l’Éducation et la Culture, Ifni, Morocco
    • USAID, Rabat, Morocco
    • Munich Re Foundation, Munich, Germany
    • Agence du Bassin Souss-Massa, Agadir, Morocco
    • Ministère délégué auprès du Ministre de l’Energie, de l’Eau et de l’Environnement, Rabat, Morocco
    • Université de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
    • Ambassador of Finland to Morocco
    • Global Green Grants, Colorado, USA
    • Water Lines, Santa Fe, USA
    • Ministère de la Solidarité, de la Femme, de la Famille et du Développement Social, Rabat, Morocco
    • Vera Campbell Foundation, California, USA
    • And various individual and anonymous donors in Morocco and the USA
  • Research Partners and Applied Action :
    • Province de Sidi Ifni, Maroc
    • Tifawin Institute, Colorado, USA
    • Département de Géographie, Université de la Laguna à Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
    • Centre Nationale d’Etudes et de Recherche sur l’Eau et l’Energie, Université Cadi Ayyad, Marrakech, Morocco
    • Université Technique de Munich, Germany
    • Wasserstiftung, Munich, Germany
    • ATLAS Institute and Mortenson Center, Colorado University, Colorado, USA
    • Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Massachusetts, USA

Prizes and Distinctions

Project Boutmezguida:

  • Won the UNFCCC Momentum for Change Award, September 2016
  • Was named a finalist for participating in “Journée Climat organisée par  L’Ambassade de France au Maroc” October, 1st, 2016
  • Received a prize from Association à Effet Papillon by Ecole Nationale de Commerce et de Gestion-Agadir ENCG, 2016
  • Received a prize:  Écologique au Salon Écologique, Agadir, May 2013