Is Water the Silver Lining in Every Cloud?

After I posted the snickering, tongue-in-cheek writeup on the 1931 “fog farm” concept, Angela B. sent along (via inhabitat.com) information on this real and modern example of a “fog farm” from a sharp student with her head in the clouds, so to speak.

For her final thesis in Industrial Design at Germany’s Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Imke Hoehler designed the “DropNet fog collector” that harvests drinking water from fog, air and mist. The great features of her design include simplicity, zero energy requirement, easy assembly and portability (unskilled workers can quickly assemble it on flat or uneven ground.) It’s a feasible approach for isolated areas with little or no infrastructure.

Each unit reportedly collects 10-20 liters per day. Unlike the kooky Modern Mechanix fog farm concept, this isn’t conceived to irrigate farmland, but it can ensure a safe supply of drinking water in challenging conditions. Has Irme, literally, found the silver lining in every cloud? Or more importantly, a reasonable way to mine it?

In looking at the design I wonder…might there be a way to incorporate rainwater harvesting into the unit so that it could also collect those supplies when available?

The Smart Set Always Heads for the Beach

I’m thinking (as I browse travel sites from ThirstyInSuburbia’s cold-gripped Midwest HQ) how people naturally seek out bodies of water. We are hopelessly drawn to it. Look at any map and note how the population clusters along oceans, rivers, coastlines or lakes. Is it part of our human nature to seek out bodies of water?

Nature or nurture? Theorized by neuroscientist Michael Crawford, our attraction to water represents another element of human evolution.

The University of North London researcher has proposed that our ancient ancestors were devotees of the sea, and that their diets were a factor in the evolution of the human’s large and complex brain. Form a 2007 article that I missed on livescience.com,

Crawford claims that when humans separated from apes and emerged from the forests of Africa, they stuck close to rivers and beaches and started feasting on fish, clams and crabs. That marine diet was packed with omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that promote brain cell growth.

It’s no coincidence, Crawford claims, that human brain growth began to increase exponentially once we left the woods and headed for the beach.

Maybe that’s our cue/excuse to pack up our big brains and small bathing suits and head for the water.  Mare proluit omnia mortalium mala!

Vintage postcard “Bathing in Lagoon, Long Beach, CA from riptheskull on Flickr, thanks!

Moral Mayhem at Vancouver’s Mini-Bars!

Besides the Coca Cola/Dasani concession, where’s the least-likely place we’d expect to find tap water promoted during the Vancouver Olympic frenzy? Hotel mini-bars, you say?

Photo via cbc.ca: A stainless steel refillable water bottle is featured prominently in mini-bars in Vancouver's Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel to help promote the city's tap water.

Photo via cbc.ca: A stainless steel refillable water bottle is featured prominently in mini-bars in Vancouver

Well, surprise! During the winter games, Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim offers something new in guests’ mini bars that’s almost as shocking as the prices – a (not complimentary) metal water bottle for unlimited, free tap refills. The hotel was one of the first to join Vancouver’s campaign to encourage Olympics visitors to use the city’s tap water.

The bottle’s $12.95 price tag surely means the predatory mini-bar sales model is still safe. Also, we assume that tiny paper-topped glasses are still available in guest bathrooms and bedrooms. From CBC News via hotelchatter.com,

“Bottled water is a major seller in our guest rooms through the mini-bars,” said hotel manager Randy Zupanski. “I was concerned about the fall-off of those sales … but it’s the right thing to do.”

Tap Water, Now Competing in Vancouver

Water utilities and municipalities are finally getting hip to the promotional opportunity that big events can present. From little local festivals to the Olympics, events are a perfect place for tap water proponents to strut their stuff. Vancouver is getting in the game despite overwhelming competition from heavily-favored Coca Cola/Dasani, who has paid handsomely for their Olympic sponsorship slot.

During the Olympic Games, The City of Metro Vancouver and the Province of Ontario set up a “water wagon” downtown to offer local tap water straight from the Seymour Reservoir.

Thanks to Sweet One on Flickr, who snapped this shot on his iPhone, we can have a peek! He and others, though, pointed out that while the water was clear the benefactor was not!

Apparently the Province of Ontario is serving Metro Vancouver tap water… to promote Ontario tap water? I’m confused.

Maybe it’s because we’re all so unaccustomed to cooperation when water is involved!

Anyhow, Metro Vancouver has been running a tap water campaign since 2008; one of the the stated goals was to reduce bottled water use 20% by 2010. (Wait, that’s NOW!) With a sluggish economy, all the cheapies and frugalistas gotta love the price–13 liters for just a penny.

Architects Gone Wild: Water Inspiration for Yeosu 2012

Big-time international design competitions encourage architects to “design and build feats of wonderment” and for the ocean-themed Yeosu, Korea World Expo 2012 (“The Living Ocean and Coast”) we can see what their creative imaginations might generate with water as a prime ingredient.

MVRDV (Rotterdam, NL) submits a striking Water Cube Pavilion that imagines “a block extracted from the ocean” in which one is surrounded on all sides by water with a series of water “basins” that are stacked on top of each other. . The skin of the building is designed out of four layers of glass, with water in between. Fresh sea water from outside is constantly pumped into the basins as a natural temperature adapter. The skin contains elements to regulate temperature such as rolling curtains to control the UV penetration and solar PV cells to create energy for the water circulation and the light of the building. (More info and images at Inhabitat.com and archdaily.com)

Our mobile society will squeal with delight at the submission from Melbourne, AU-based Peddle Thorp Architects. Their pavilion is is a vessel – a floating exhibition space that can be sailed to other cities. Today, adaptability is a key planning concept, so we love that this is a “living building that can adapt to suit an unknowable future.” Just think how great it would be if we could easily move the many abandoned and failed facilities that now litter the world landscape…schools, malls, hospitals that moved along with the population! (More info and images at archdaily.com)

Yosemite February Fire Fall: A Hot Photo Op

It’s a good thing I read Aquafornia or I might never have known about the odd, rare and spectacular illusion known as the Yosemite “Fire Fall”… which actually involves no fire whatsoever.

Left, Horsetail Falls-Yosemite, by dlr9000 on Flickr

In Yosemite there is an almost non-existent waterfall called “Horsetail Falls.” During the last two weeks in February if conditions are perfect, photographers and spectators can witness what appears to be molten lava spilling over the Falls, but what is, in fact, an illusion caused by the angle of the sun.

“Perfect conditions” means first, sunlight in a clear, perfect sky (despite the clouds and storms that are common in Winter.) Second, there’s just a two-week window; the setting sun is positioned correctly ONLY during the last two weeks of February. Last, there must be water trickling over the falls.

Those with luck and patience will be rewarded with spectacular photos such as these. Hot to try? Learn a few of the basics here.

By howardignatius on Flickr

By daleberts on Flickr

Inventors Imagine a Water-Grabbing Fog Farm

This week a study revealed that California’s coastal fog has decreased significantly over the past 100 years, potentially endangering the state’s treasured coastal redwood trees.

And that’s not all! It potentially endangers these old and passed-over ideas, too, as detailed in a June, 1931 Inventions feature in Modern Mechanix. (Fog Drip May Hold Key to Drought Relief”)

Especially curious is this drawing which illustrates a novel idea:

Inventors in California once proposed to set up a tall screen of wire netting to catch fog near the coast and to store the water in reservoirs, from which it could be piped to adjacent farmlands. This beautiful plan was knocked in the head by a cold-blooded meteorologist, Dr. W. J. Humphreys, of the Weather Bureau. Humphreys showed that a screen 250 feet high—the cost of which would doubtless be prohibitive—would provide irrigation water for a strip of land only about half a mile wide back of it. However, the scheme may still have possibilities, and inventors are continuing their investigations of the odd phenomena in various parts of the world. Their findings have proved interesting

Following are the article’s first two pages, but you can read the entire thrilling feature here!

Groovy! Mid-Century Modern Water Storage

If Mike Brady had designed water towers or water tanks, I imagine they’d have looked like this!

These are pages from a 1965 promotional book from the Committee of Steel Plate Producers, American Iron and Steel Institute, obviously to introduce industrial designers and engineers to the coolness and versatility of steel plate for water storage products. (This copy was missing the middle-section pages.)

We love the 60s-era illustrations depicting that happy time when balloon-festooned children always strolled hand-in-hand with their parents. Below is a small sampling; the entire booklet can be seen on my Flickr site by clicking any of the pictures below.

Many thanks to Angela Blann for saving this book from the trash bin!