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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Fog Garden

Air Date: Week of July 29, 2011

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A new exhibit at the Center for Art + Environment in Reno, Nevada features designs for ways to trap and tap fog. Host Bruce Gellerman talks with expert fog catcher Pilar Cereceda. She runs the Atacama Desert Center and has been piping dew in the driest place in the world.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: An exhibit called "The Fog Garden" opens this week at the Center for Art + Environment in Reno, Nevada. It's a collection of scale models of fog catchers – devices designed to harvest mist in the driest place on the planet: the Atacama Desert along the northern coast of Chile. Pilar Cereceda, the Director of the Atacama Desert Center, is an expert in catching fog.

CERECEDA: It's like when you are in the fog and you have little droplets in your hair…

GELLERMAN: Mmhm.

CERECEDA: Or in the sweater, many times, you can see that. So this is the same idea. And what we use is mosquito mesh nylon thread to stop the wind.

GELLERMAN: How big are these fog catchers?

CERECEDA: You have to think it’s something like…highway billboards.

GELLERMAN: Oh, they’re the size of highway billboards?

CERECEDA: “Drink Coca-Cola!”

GELLERMAN: (Laughs).

CERECEDA: And we had a little town, 300 people, had water from fog for around eight to ten years with fog collectors, and the collectors were in the mountain around 600m of altitude and by a tube it went down and the water was distributed and each house had a tap, and they could open the tap and they would have fog water in their hands.

GELLERMAN: So, let me get this right. You’ve got: The fog rolls in from the ocean…

  

The Valle de la luna or “moon valley” is typical of the extraterrestrial landscape in the Atacama. (Wikimedia)

CERECEDA: Right.

GELLERMAN: And you’ve got the desert and you’ve got these mountains and the mountains are where you mount your fog catcher.

CERECEDA: Right, exactly.

GELLERMAN: And then you take that water that you capture and you kind of pipe it down to where you need it!

CERECEDA: Exactly.

GELLERMAN: How well does it work?

CERECEDA: It works very well. You can have, for example, in this village that I am telling you, there was a lot of fog, almost everyday, usually five or six days in a week you would have fog. And that village would receive one truck of 10 thousand liters once a week. And they had the fog collectors we had the equivalent of one truck a day. So, it works very well.

GELLERMAN: Well, Pilar, thank you very much, I really appreciate it!

CERECEDA: Thank you, Bruce.

GELLERMAN: Pilar Cereceda is the Director of the Atacama Desert Center. Fog Garden – an exhibit featuring scale models of their fog catchers – opens this week at The Center for Art + Environment in Reno, Nevada.

 

 

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