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People living on desert edge catch water from fog


August 27, 1996
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Ronnie Lovler

CHUNGUNGO, Chile (CNN) -- It's the sight people have been watching for all day in this small coastal village -- fog rolling in. (811K QuickTime movie)

It's the start of a unique water-making system called "cloud harvesting" or "fog catching."


When the fog makes contact with specially strung nets, it will soon be converted to much-needed water.

"The idea was that in some parts of Chile, there are great concentrations of vegetation that have no reason to exist because there is no rainfall," said project director Alejandro Cruzat. "The source of water is the fog."

To harvest fog, 82 large square nets trap the water that then drips into a tube. The water passes through an attached hose and pipelines to a holding tank.

The people of Chungungo, which sits on the edge of the vast Atacama Desert, no longer have to depend on the water trucks that would make sporadic visits to their community.

drinking dripping water

Daisy Sasmaya, president of the neighborhood council, boasts of her new shower and shows off her garden. She says people can now shower every day and water their plants regularly.

Another resident said she can now wash her clothes when she needs to, rather than having to wait for long periods of time.


Chile's fog-catching project, one of the first in the world, started with funding from the Canadian government a few years ago.

Scientists come from around the world to see if they can apply the techniques in their countries. Vilho Mtuleni, of the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, said his priority is finding ways to get water to people and livestock in arid areas. (372K AIFF or WAV sound)

What he and other visitors see in Chile is that tiny airborne drops of water can go a long way if you know what you're doing.

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