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Fog collector helps neighborhoods without city water access

Swatches | August 1, 2023 | By:

The fog collector/greenhouse is 6.5 meters tall (21.3 feet), and it takes up 25 square meters (269 square feet). Photos: Alsar-Atelier

Condensing fog on fabric in arid and/or high-elevation locations is not a new concept, though a small-scale fog collector is not an everyday sight in people’s backyards. In Colombia, not everyone has in-home access to municipal water infrastructure, especially in low-income, informal neighborhoods in Bogotá. A DIY prototype fog collector/greenhouse could help those residents access clean water and improve food security.

A collaboration arose among local community leaders and members of the San Luis neighborhood, the Colombian Society of Architects, architectural firm Alsar-Atelier and its founder Alejandro Saldarriaga (offices in Boston and Bogotá) and designer Caesar Salomon, from Maya Tejedores de la Tierra (Maya Weavers of the Earth), a group promoting urban agriculture in Bogotá. Saldarriaga and Salomon arranged the donation of the residence-sized fog collector that could be built with items that people can find at their local hardware store—no construction experience, heavy machinery or concrete required.

The fabric used in the fog catcher is a common plastic textile, a polisombra made by Agro Universo S.A.S., such as the kind typically used to create perimeters around construction sites. Other materials include steel to build the 6.5-meter (21.3-foot) tower and PVC pipes leading to tanks for water collection. During the humid season, it can capture 200 liters (52.8 gallons) of water in a week to be used for cleaning, washing and gardening, reducing people’s dependence on municipal water supplies or the need to purchase and haul it themselves. People in homes in the neighborhood without a connection to municipal water have “to buy water from their neighbors who have access to the aqueduct, sometimes having to travel uncomfortable distances with gallons of water,” Saldarriaga says.   

The neighborhood is 2,600 meters (1.6 miles) above sea level in a tropical climate. Saldarriaga says they anticipate the fog collection during the dry season to be about half of the humid season. Those numbers were still being calculated, as the fog collector had not been up a full year yet.

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