AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (Bentley Be Inspired Conference) - If you've heard of Namibia, you may be into diamonds. South Africa's neighbor to the north, Namibia, is a great source of gem quality diamonds. They say once you could walk along Namibia's beautiful beaches and find diamonds washed up by the waves. Though such finds may now be just legend, Namibia is fortunate to have not just great beaches, but access to Africa's big game for picture safaris and is blessed with great weather and relatively mild temperatures. Judging from an inflight magazine over Africa recently, a tourist trade has already developed. Not only is it a favored destination with the well off in South Africa but may be catching on with globe trotters.
But the very condition favored by tourists (sunny skies, hotel pools, scenic dunes) run counter to the needs of the local population. Namibia is home to the Kalahari Desert, the second largest desert in Africa. Though sparsely populated, Namibia strains to meet its water needs, often competing for surface water with neighboring countries.
Matt Parkes of Atlas Industries has a creative solution: extracting water from the coastal fog, which can be counted on to roll in every morning for the vast majority of the year. The fog yields a remarkable amount of water, which ordinarily does nothing but condense on natural plants and the coastal range.
Research in Peru and other foggy locales indicates a fine nylon net of 1 square meter is capable of extracting 3 litres every day. Add electricity and the yield is 6X as much. Of course electricity must be bought or created, but Atlas has the answer: why not use Namibia's abundant solar energy. Atlas pictures a string of fog catchers along the coast, along with an "edutainment" center to foster awareness among tourists and locals regarding the unique water resources existing in deserts.
Inspiration for such an idea came from the humble Namib desert beetle (see Wikipedia link). The little fella stands on its head in the fog and manages to extract 37% of its body weight daily in water. The fog catcher design employs the beetle's hard shell/soft body parts biomimicry in the internal design of its fog catcher apparatus.
Another example in my neck of the woods (no pun intended) are the redwood forests north of San Francisco. Not only is the redwood fog catching ability good enough to create the tallest living creatures on earth in an area that sees no rainfall all summer, but often results in precipitation under the branches no different from rain. Quite a treat after biking up Mt Tam, I must say.