Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student John Marrs makes this connection here…

The news article, “Fog Catchers Bring Water to Parched Villages,” was reported by National Geographic on July 9, 2009 in their Daily News section available online. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issues of water shortage and alternative supply methods.  In short, this article discusses the application of relatively new fog catching technology to small villages outside of Lima, Peru.  The technology has been designed and applied by German conservationists, biologists, and engineers, and can collect upwards of 150 gallons of water per 32 square meters per day from the heavy fogs from the Pacific Ocean during winter months.  Newer technology in used elsewhere in the world has collected upwards of 600 gallons per 32 square meter net per day.  Based on what I know about WRE, the article is accurately reporting on a critical global WRE issue.  Water shortages and supply difficulties affect more than 1 billion people in developing regions of the world and claim tens of thousands of lives each day (Wurbs et al., 2002).  Additional articles have been written on addressing similar projects elsewhere in South America, which have achieved similar success (11,000 liters collected per day) (Schemenauer et al., 2009).  After reflecting on the contents of this article, I believe that more discussion regarding the actual design of the collection systems could have been provided.  In addition, the logistics of distribution and protection of the collected water was not addressed, but is undoubtedly an important component of the application of such techniques.

Given the expansive reach of water resources engineering across different disciplines and regions of the globe, it is clear that examples of WRE such as this have broader implementations.  The particular topic of water supply from fog catching technology influences both economic and societal realms.  The economic context is typically associated with the flow of money, on both large national government scales as well as smaller individual-based scales.  The utilization of fog catchers in the villages surrounding Lima relates largely to the latter, as individuals living in harsh conditions are the primary beneficiaries of the technology.  The article states that for the average family living in the outskirts of Lima, over 20% of the weekly income is spent on water.  This is ten times greater than families that live closer to the city and are connected to the municipal water supply spend, due to the difficulties of supplying the more remote locations.  I found that the relationship between the WRE issue of water shortages in Lima, Peru and economics is similarly reported by Conrad (2012), whose article reports that water on the outskirts of Lima costs roughly four American dollars per liter.  In a societal context, which in this case relates humans and their pursuit of happiness to the environment, this technology makes basic survival and the dream of finding work and a successful life in Lima more realistic for many.  Titles for undeveloped land surrounding Lima can be acquired at no cost by anyone after they have occupied it for a long enough period of time and adhere to certain stipulations, including planting trees in an attempt to prevent erosion.  Irrigating the trees with expensive water is difficult and often impractical.  The hundreds of gallons per day collected by fog collection devices is an ideal source of irrigation water, and makes the land-obtaining process much more realistic for many residents.  The cause-effect relation between fog collection and economic/societal impact is as follows – any water collected by fog collection technology can effectively contribute to offsetting costs of obtaining water for people who desperately require cheap water to survive and succeed in their nation’s capital.

 

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Figure 1 – Fog catching technology in use outside of Lima, Peru

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Figure 2 – Town located outside of Lima, Peru. Villages such as this will likely face water shortage issues in coming years, and have potential to use fog catching techniques to counteract such shortages

References:

Conrad, Naomi. Deutsche Welle. Ed. Nancy Isenson. N.p., 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. http://www.dw.de

Fields, Helen. “Fog Catchers Bring Water to Parched Villages.” National Geographic July 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com

Schemenauer, Robert S., and Pilar Cereceda. “Fog collection’s role in water planning for developing countries.” National Resources Forum 18.2 (2009): 91-100. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Wurbs, R.A., James, W.P., 2002. Water Resources Engineering. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle

River, NJ.

 

 

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