If you live in an area of the Bay where fog is common, you may be able to tap into a different water source for your yard.
Fog and dew gathering is common worldwide where access to water is a problem and fog is prevalent. Modeled after the Namib desert beetle, a dew collector on its bumpy back, its efficiency depends heavily on the materials used. Just as the redwood tree’s filaments trap fog and bring water to its root system, gardeners can do the same by creating a fog fence or revised rain chain. Does anyone on site do this? It turns out that Jean Brocklebank has successfully collected fog water and agreed to teach a lesson.
Jean Brocklebank is an environmental studies activist in Santa Cruz with science degrees from UCLA and UCSC. She was open to demonstrating her mist collection system and giving a tour of her garden.
“Since we live 1.6 km from the sea, we have a lot of foggy days, especially in the summer months. There is always some fog water in the watering can. I estimate we collect about 100 gallons of pure fog water each year,” says Jean.
My research with the Fog Collection Alliance can answer basic questions most people might have. Fog is simply a cloud touching the ground. It forms when warm, moist air cools. This creates millions of tiny water droplets with a diameter of 1 to 40 microns. This is called condensation. Many places around the world have fog as a climate condition and resource. Santa Cruz County and other parts of the Bay Area fall into this category. Creating “fog fences” can be used with a little guidance to capture droplets of water.
According to Aqualonis, creators of the Cloudfisher mesh material, project locations around the world include Tanzania, Morocco, Bolivia, Kenya and California. Aqualonis, a German company, sells a collection kit for serious fog harvesting and claims their collection units can also collect rainwater. The atmospheric water collected is also considered potable as the mesh is made of food grade materials. However, one should consider air pollution before human consumption. This freestanding system may be ideal for large property owners, but is not practical for average sized or smaller properties.
When Jean showed me her mist collection system, the technology was simple and effective. Using the rain gutters, three downspouts were provided for rain barrels part of the year and then for mist collection in the summer. The catchment area can be increased by using a wire mesh as a “fog fence” over the gutters. As the water condenses, it drips down the modified gutter spout, where it is channeled via a metal chain into a ceramic water urn with a spout. The urn was placed on a barrel for convenience, so that the water could be taken from the spout without bending down. She also uses a watering can at the end of the chain.
“Since the rain stopped and in the days without rain in January, February and March, we were still collecting condensation (mist water) most days. An inch here, 2 inches there and pretty soon we have a pint, then a quart, then a gallon,” says Jean.
Every little counts.
Fog is essential for the coastal redwood forests. Plants that rely on fog have organic structures to harvest fog. These include: Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum), Sequoia, California Polybody (Polypodium californicum), California Blueberry (Vaccinium ovatum), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus). Their leaf structures help retain moisture that might otherwise be lost through transpiration, the exhalation of water vapor. Like rain chains, these water-gathering plants catch water, release it to the ground, then drink at the roots, evaporate, and then keep their surroundings cool and moist. a cycle.
Returning to the tour of Jean’s garden, the number of rain barrels available for summer watering was impressive. She was hired for the season. She was very inventive in her gardening using food cultivation and pollinating plants. Their lifestyle is true to their principles and conserves natural resources through continuous scientific investigation of environmental concerns and innovation. Along with her husband, her carbon footprint is minimal through her daily habits. They waste little, they recycle items, compost food or plant waste, mostly walk to their destinations and of course harvest their own garden water.
This summer could be the one to experiment with mist collection. If there is a gutter, there is a way. Jean’s demonstration was so simple it’s worth trying: a gutter, a wire mesh, a chain and a container. I’ve also taken it upon myself to grow mist-collecting plants. Had it not been mentioned, this technology would not have occurred to me to research. It’s always an honor to be welcomed into someone’s home and garden, connecting through naturalness is a plus.
Thank you Jean Brocklebank for the field trip to your garden and the educational experience!