Fog nets in Bolivia
© Peter Trautwein

Fogwater harvesting in Bolivia

An innovative way to embrace nature´s solution

A review of the project

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    In the Valles Cruceños region, an innovative fog water harvesting project using CloudFisher nets has provided a crucial additional source of water for over 400 people. Running from 2019 to 2023, this initiative – realised  by the Spanish aid organization Zabalketa and the Bolivian NGO Instituto de Capacitación del Oriente (ICO) and jointly funded by the WaterFoundation and the Munich Re Foundation – provided a crucial additional water source in an area challenged by water scarcity. Fog collectors can be used to capture valuable drinking water, providing a sustainable solution in regions with limited rainfall. The direct benefits to students, staff and local families were demonstrated at installation sites such as Alto Veladero School and Sivingalito. A final publication now summarises the results of the project.
    © Seteseoito / Zabalketa

    The beginnings of fog harvesting 

    Our project launch in Bolivia in 2019 was not the beginning of the fog net journey. New to Bolivia, fog harvesting technology has a long history, with the first prototypes dating back to the 1960s in Chile. However, challenges such as high winds and solar radiation required improvements. In close coordination and co-operation the Water Foundation, aqualonis GmbH, and the Technical University of Munich, continued to develop the technology, resulting in the creation of the so-called CloudFisher. The new collector design displayed some key improvements over the simple Raschelmesh panels that had been used in previous experiments: the use of three-dimensional mesh, the application of expanders, a fixed positions of the water troughs and more stability.  

    Following joint projects between the Munich Re Foundation and the WaterFoundation in Tanzania and Morocco, and further lessons learned from these projects, fog collectors were installed in the Valles Cruceños region of Bolivia in 2022.

    How does fog harvesting work?

    A fog net is a structure designed to capture water droplets from fog. The principle of harvesting fog is simple, but extremely effective, in regions with regular fog. Wind pushes the humid air through the fog nets. The tiny drops of fog are caught in the nets and flow from the netting into pipes that are directly connected to cisterns and the water supply system.
    In Bolivia, the system also collects rainwater, providing a double benefit in regions where rainwater is often not collected effectively. Fog nets are only useful in areas with water scarcity and specific weather conditions with sufficient fog. In most cases, fog forms in coastal areas or regions close to a big lake. In the Valles Cruceños region of Bolivia – being a non-coastal, mountainous area – this was an innovative application, as the water was harvested from inland fogs.   

    For more information, see page 17 in the project report.

    Increasing water scarcity

    Water availability is becoming increasingly unpredictable, leading to droughts and exacerbating water scarcity in some regions. Ensuring sustainable water and sanitation services for all is crucial for mitigating climate change and preventing water-related diseases and biodiversity loss. Strategies for sustainable water management have never been more urgent.

    Bolivia is also highly affected by water scarcity, especially in the Valles Cruceños region. The uneven distribution of rainfall throughout the year, combined with a lack of large-scale water storage and distribution infrastructure, limits the availability of water to local communities. Despite these challenges, the region's agricultural activities, particularly the production of fruit and vegetables, demand a substantial amount of water. Although this region faces water scarcity, there is another form of water available: fog. The project uses this abundant resource to address the water challenges that are essential for the well-being and development of the local population. 

    Location and impact

    The project installed CloudFishers at four sites, benefiting over 400 people by providing a safe and reliable water source with drinking water quality.

    • Alto Veladero school site: 128 people (110 students, 18 staff), 13 CloudFishers, 102.6 m² mesh area, up to a maximum of 35,000 litres of water per month.

    • Central Veladero and Sahuintito Veladero: 170 people (43 families), 5 CloudFishers in Central Veladero, 12 CloudFishers in Sahuintito, 134.2 m² total mesh area, ensured year-round water supply.  

    • Sivingalito: 120 people (32 families), 12 CloudFishers, 94.7 m² mesh area, with connection to the main water network. 

    Veladero School site example

    The graphs show the fog collector system at the Veladero School site and the total amount of water collected by the CloudFisher system each month. To compare performance between sites, the volume of water per square metre of CloudFisher mesh was calculated. The fog collectors at the Veladero School are used exclusively to supply water to the teachers and students of the educational centre. At the other three sites, the water harvested is integrated into the community's water supply network.
    The water yields of the other three sites can be found in the publication on page 47. 

    Performance of the CloudFisher at the Veladero School site
    Diagram of the fog collector system at the Veladero School site

    Completely green technology

    Fog harvesting is an effective technique for providing water in water-scarce areas with regular fog occurrences. The project in Bolivia shows that it's a sustainable way to produce water with minimal resources. The flexibility of fog nets allows for a modular approach, providing water during critical dry months without the need for special machinery or advanced technology. This environmentally sustainable method utilises natural condensation and gravity, making it a completely green technology. n addition, the maintenance costs in the project are low and the systems are easy to operate without technical knowledge, which benefits the municipalities. In addition, the maintenance costs in the project are low and the systems are easy to operate without technical knowledge, which benefits the communities. 

    Social impact

    But the project goes far beyond water collection. It includes skills training, water education, awareness raising on water management and hygiene practices. This is particularly important for the students at the school site, who benefit from this comprehensive approach. In addition, fostering respect for water and the environment from a young age helps to build resilience and promote environmental responsibility. Furthermore, fog nets have the potential to reduce inequalities in access to water, particularly in marginalised communities around the world.

    Successful completion of the project

    The project in Bolivia's Valles Cruceños region demonstrates how a simple, but pioneering initiative can revolutionize access to water. Driven by grassroots efforts, environmental education, and innovative technology, fog water harvesting means a considerable step forwards for local communities.

    This journey, addressing water scarcity through collaborative efforts, showcases how the right approach can contribute to progress in the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to water, social, and environmental development.

    Pilot projects launched: Zabalketa, supported by the Basque business group NER, launched pilot projects in Peru and Bolivia to test fog harvesting for reforestation in areas of low rainfall.

    Fog net installation: Larger fog collectors were installed in the Valles Cruceños to provide water to remote households.

    Study and site identification: A study, supported by the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation, identified ten potential sites for fog water collection in the Valles Cruceños.

    Project launch: WaterFoundation and Munich Re Foundation selected a project by ICO and Zabalketa to install CloudFisher fog collectors in Bolivia.

    Installation completed: The installation of CloudFisher systems in four locations was finalised in September. These sites were Veladero School, Central Veladero, Sahuintito and Sivingalito.

    Fog water harvesting data was collected between October 2022 and March 2023. These results were evaluated based on two important factors: rainfall and the frequency of fog presence each month. In addition, training courses for local organisations, environmental education sessions for students and a small water summit in Vallegrade were held.

    Water harvesting successful: Large amounts of water were collected at all sites, ranging from 3,000 to 35,000 litres per month.  
    See detailed graphs in the report on page 47.