New York: Residents in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest desert on Earth, are turning to giant `fog catchers` as a possible long-term means of revitalizing the arid area.
In 2001, Canadian non-profit group FogQuest set up a series of giant mesh nettings held up by pipes that act as gutters in Falda Verde, a high-altitude area in the Atacama Desert, the New York Daily News reported.
Vapor from fog that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean turns into droplets on the specially-designed nets and rolls down into pipes that are connected to water collection tanks.
The water is so fresh it can be used as drinking water or for watering agriculture.
"The meshes are made of polyethylene or polypropylene. They have been chosen to be very efficient at capturing the wind blown fog droplets," FogQuest said on their website.
Locals near Falda Verde, in the village of Chanaral, have been using the collected vapor as both a source of fresh drinking water and means for sustaining agriculture.
Amazingly, they have been able to maintain an aloe vera farm and create patches of oases in the desert.
With several 48-meter (158 feet) nets installed, the location now efficiently collects 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water in 10 containers per day from fog.
In 2007, the non-profit set up a second series of fog catchers in the Atacama Desert Center in Alto Patache as part of an environmental education project in conjunction with researchers at Universidad Catolica.
Researchers are now studying to determine if this could be a long-term water solution that could mean more agriculture in the arid area.
FogQuest has established other fog catchers in the rural areas of Guatemala, Ethiopia, Nepal and Morocco.