Fog ascends in the highlands of Eritrea.
With the German Wasserstiftung the Munich Re Foundation built up fog nets to collect drinking water.

5th International Conference on Fog, Fog Collection and Dew – Retaining a clear focus

There is more to fog than reduced visibility. If you look a little closer, a fascinating field of research opens up before your very eyes, especially with regard to the collection of water from fog. From 25 to 30 July, some 140 scientists from Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Australia convened at the 5th International Conference on Fog, Fog Collection and Dew in Münster to analyse this issue. The Munich Re Foundation was one of the event’s sponsors.

Worldwide, there are only a few hundred users and scientists concerned with the phenomena collecting drinking water via fog and dew. Their motivation and professional backgrounds vary greatly. “That is why this conference provided a unique opportunity for exchanging the latest findings and ideas”, stressed Prof. Otto Klemm, head of the Climatology Working Group at the Institute for Landscape Ecology of the University of Münster and organiser of this year’s conference. Previous conferences were hosted by Canada (twice), South Africa and, most recently (2007), by Chile.
    
This year, participants discussed factors conducive to the creation of water droplets and the interaction between gases and droplets. A further topic of considerable interest was the influence of fog and dew on vegetation. Fog and dew contribute a large number of nutrients to the ecosystem, in addition to water. The identification and forecasting of fog formation using remote sensing via satellite, for instance in the field of traffic guidance, was another important subject dealt with in the presentations. 
 
Collecting fog as source of drinking water
Besides analysing the various fog phenomena, the conference looked into the technical aspects of harnessing fog and dew as sources of drinking water. In notably foggy areas with very little rainfall, fog is successfully “milked” by means of large nets. In South America, Africa and Asia, the first such projects have been launched and the results thus far have been promising. Under favourable conditions, the annual average amount of water collected per square metre of net surface per day is more than five litres. Hence, several 40-square-metre nets can collect enough water to sustain human beings and small farming units.
 
“It is important to get the population on board and be acquainted with the local conditions, in particular fog availability,” said Robert Schemenauer, founder of “Fogquest”, a pioneer in the field of fog collection projects. “As long as people in certain areas do not have any other alternative, fog collectors may often be the only water source", says Schemenauer. In a manner of speaking, fog collectors are therefore a bridging technology until water pipes are in place or wells are dug.
 
The factors determining the success or failure of a fog net project were analysed in one of the workshops that rounded off the conference. The experts established 20 recommendations for the successful implementation of fog net projects (link) – to ensure that fog is no longer seen only as an obstacle to our view but as a unique water resource.