Drinking Water Provision from Fog Harvesting in The Anti-Atlas Mountains in Morocco
This is a comprehensive technology and social development project to mitigate severe water stress and its subsequent social effects in an arid region. The case study area is in the driest part of Morocco, and it involves 161 families living on subsistence farming and grazing and whose per capita water consumption is 10–15 litres per day. The Dar Si Hmad Foundation combined a water-focused educational programme (Water School) and an easement of women’s and young girls’ daily burden (i.e. spending more than three hours daily on average to transport water from faraway sources) with high-tech innovation and international engineering expertise. The idea for the technology comes from an observation of the animal kingdom—i.e. the water-trapping efficiency of spider webs. A test system (600 m2 nets) was raised and the effects measured to compare construction methods and design. Water access was completed in 2015: the transport pipeline and distribution network were built, and the upgraded CloudFisher nets were installed.
The project is part of the Dar Si Hmad Foundations’s effort to improve the livelihood of people through the reorganisation of how water is accessed and managed in this arid and poor region.
The villages involved in the case study, located in the Ait Baamrane region in South-West Morocco, are based on subsistence farming. The lack of reliable water supply (precipitation is less than 150 mm annually) makes it difficult to meet human needs and places severe constraints on agricultural activity. The estimated household income is USD 5 per day. Women in the villages typically spend 3–4 hours per day gathering water from distant wells.
Conflicts arising from the baseline situation
Beyond its destructive effects on livelihood and the social fabric of the area, water stress places an overwhelming burden on women whose traditional role includes supplying water for their families. Despite fulfilling this essential role, these women are also marginalised socially. The time needed for water-gathering activities makes other income-generating activities or education impossible for young girls.
Description of the applied measure, its introduction and operation
The core element of the project was the installation of specially designed nets near the top of Mount Boutmezguida in the Anti-Atlas Mountains (See image). The system condenses water from clouds and fog that, after collection, is transferred down to the villages via pipes and collected in cisterns. This harvest-and-transport system includes 600 m2 of nets, seven small-scale reservoirs (total 539 m3), six solar panels, and approximately 10 km of pipeline. On the household side, 52 homes in five villages (about 400 persons in total) receive the collected water through pre-paid water meters. Started as an experiment in 2006, construction that took place between 2011 and 2015 included a major technology upgrade based on the gathered experience.
The project is the result of international cooperation, and includes local NGO Dar Si Hmad (http://darsihmad.org/fog/), which worked together with several Moroccan, European and American research partners in the technological development and installation of the fog harvesting system. All the project work (including the technology development and pilot installation) was funded through a wide range of Moroccan and international Institutions and individuals.
The project followed the principles of integrated development, while also addressing the area’s social challenges resulting from water stress. The first successful experiments of providing water via the fog-harvesting nets helped to overcome some of these challenges. The programme also provided educational benefits, especially in terms of basic technical literacy by teaching women to be able to handle water system management through their phone devices. The project has additional features that help to improve water use and household sanitation.
Physical and ecological impacts of the measure
The water harvesting and distribution system was installed to serve 500 people. The system provides 10.5 litres of water per m2 of net; with 600 m2 of net, 3,150 litres of water are produced per day during the foggy season, and there is 50 m3 in reservoir capacity at the top of the mountain (See image)
The installed technology can ease water stress situations among the rural Berber population. No ecosystem is adversely impacted, as the whole water quantity is collected for domestic or agricultural use. A secondary possibly beneficial effect of the used water could be assumed where it provides additional quantities of water to the villages.
Financial and other impacts of the measure on different stakeholders
In-home faucets and metering were installed, and villagers pay for the service—but not full price, as this would be beyond their means.
Women received basic literacy and technical education. The project also managed to devise a solution to the problem posed by the prohibition that unmarried persons of different sexes are not allowed to speak to each other. This made the necessary communication between technicians (men) and users (mostly women) a serious challenge for later system operation.
An attitude of “stewardship” towards the environment was promoted among the local project participants.
Resilience of achievements, sustainability of results
The development of a more water-conscious household sanitation technology is underway in the area, and the lead local NGO is working to improve the recycling side of the technology, and to save water by reducing freshwater needs.
As of January 2017, the project is being upgraded to CloudFisher next-generation fog-collection technology, and will connect eight more villages to the grid. The technology was developed by donor funding while its advanced form (CloudFisher) is advancing towards commercial application.
The project received the UNFCCC’s “Momentum for Change Award” in September 2016.
- The harvested water is clear, with very low levels of different contaminants but well below EU health standards.
- About 10.5 litres of water can be captured per square metre of net. With 600 m2 of installed net about 3,150 litres per day of water is harvested during the foggy season.
- A reservoir with 50m3 capacity is part of the scheme to store water.
- Villagers have an enhanced awareness of the environment’s quality.
- The project has also improved women’s life quality and time allocation.
- This is a deeply integrated project with an innovative solution to the water-stress problem.
- The integrated approach has enhanced the social quality of the villages.
- A national NGO was the centre of a wide-ranging international scientific and financial cooperative effort.
- Surface of the fog-catcher nets (m2).
- Volume of daily water collection during the suitable season (litres per day).
- Volume of water collected during one year.
- Number of households supplied.
The measure can be repeated in any area where upwind airstreams contain water vapour and nets can be secured on solid ground. Since the actual costs are not available, the financial viability of the scheme without external funding is not clear.
Dar Si Hmad Foundation, the project’s local NGO partner: http://darsihmad.org
- Dar Si Hmad Foundation: http://darsihmad.org/fog/
- Dar Si Hmad, WPI/Nathaniel Jefferson, Brian Praetorius, Carolina Ramos, “A Greywater Recycling System to Support a Fog Harvesting Initiative in Ait Baamrane, Morocco”: https://web.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-101615-173527/unrestricted/WPI_Greywater_Recycling_Systems_IQP-Report.pdf
- Leslie L. Dodson, Jamila Bargach, “Harvesting Fresh Water from Fog in Rural Morocco: Research and Impact Dar Si Hmad's Fogwater Project in Ait Baamrane”, Procedia Engineering, Vol. 107, 2015, pp. 186-93: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2015.06.073
- Aqualonis, WasserStiftung, “Natural wells in the sky”: https://www.aqualonis.com/download/CloudFisher_Pro_en.pdf
- The Moroccan Times, September 29, 2016: http://themoroccantimes.com/2016/09/20870/moroccan-fog-harvesting-project-to-provide-drinking-water-wins-un-award