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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?

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!

What Modern Water Engineers Can Learn from Ancient Infrastructure

From TED: The ancient ingenuity of water harvesting: With wisdom and wit, Anupam Mishra talks about the amazing feats of engineering built centuries ago by the people of India’s Golden Desert to harvest water. These structures are still used today — and are often superior to modern water megaprojects. You’re likely familiar with TED (the organization has logged 50 million views since they began posting video two years ago) and TED Talks have become a powerful cultural force. TED presents short lectures from some of the best thinkers in the world from a broad range of disciplines with the mission of “spreading ideas” via “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” TED began in 1984 as a conference to bring together people from the increasingly melding worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Since then its scope has widened to embrace prominent thought leaders from around the globe. See Anupam Mishra’s bio here or access an interactive transcript of this video.

When a Plain-Jane Rain Barrel Simply Won’t Do

Saving water is stylish now! And a consequence of that is more high-design products with which to stylishly save water! While that DIY-hacked, second-hand barrel you dragged from the dump is still perfectly functional, you should know that it’s so last year. The formerly humble and homely rain barrel is already getting an extreme makeover. The aggressively-named Waterwall Fatboy from Waterwall Rainwater Tanks in the UK is sure to satisfy your very-particular modern design sensibilities. From waterwalltanks.com,

Despite the name, the Waterwall Fatboy tank has an excellent size-to-capacity ratio, holding 650 gallons whilst being just over two feet wide. Waterwall tanks are made to exacting standards – the UV stabilised high density polyethylene ensures light does not enter the tank, to stop algae from growing in your tank water. Solid, thick walls keep the tank strong and prevent bulging over the many years of service.

And did we mention they look good? Next up from the company: a freestanding tank that’s designed and engineered to be used as a boundary fence. How much, you ask? Well of course good design is not cheap. Raindepot.com has the 650 gallon Waterwall Fatboy for $1,189.99. (If you’re style-impaired, the site offers plenty of other plain, but reasonable options.)

Modularity is a well-loved concept in modern design; that’s why the Rainwater HOG offers so many design-y opportunities. The innovative, award-winning modular tank stores a large volume of water in a small footprint, opening possibilities for creative applications in architectural and landscape design…like this installation, where they’re being tucked under a deck, ready to bulge with rainwater bounty while staying completely out of sight.

This commercial installation at Nundah School in Queensland, Australia of features 114 HOGs storing 5,700 gallons of water. These units were custom molded in the school colors of yellow and black, and the harvested water is used primarily for toilet flushing with the excess used for garden irrigation. Extra credit for these Rainwater HOGs, as the school uses them as learning tools in math, science, and environmental  studies.

Are you gazing longingly at the Rainwater HOGs, wondering if they’re budget-friendly? This is exceptional style, people! You can’t even get these at Target yet! You can get them from aquabarrel.com, $1,960 for 6 units. Plus shipping.

You can’t buy “A Drop of Water” at any price, because it is (still?) a prototype. Designed by Bas Van Der Veer, it passes the “good design” test with flying marks while ingeniously providing an integrated watering can that automatically fills as it rains. Grab and go! The smallish size will be ideal for you city-types with small container gardens. )If you’ve ever wondered how “one of a kind” prototypes are created, browse the photos of the process at www.basvanderverr.nl)