The mesh billboards on Morocco’s Mount Boutmezguida don’t overwhelm the eye; if anything, they look like baseball backstops mysteriously stranded on a mountainside. But the work they do producing clean water could mean the difference between life and death for local people.
As droughts increase around the world and drinkable fresh water becomes harder to find, engineers have turned to fog harvesting to make up the difference. Advancements in technology over the last few decades have turned the sci-fi–sounding discipline into a very real and even practical plan for fog-heavy regions like southern Morocco.
The cluster of new “CloudFisher” billboards will soon be joined by others to form the biggest fog-collecting operation in the world, covering about the area of three football fields and squeezing 37,400 liters of water out of every foggy day.
Peter Trautwein is CEO of Aqualonis, the company that makes CloudFisher. “That’s a huge amount—can you imagine?” he asked Smithsonian.
The future fog farm is a collaboration between Aqualonis and other German companies and the Moroccan nonprofit Dar Si Hmad, which works to bring water and education to rural communities. It’s already won an award from the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, and it isn’t even finished yet.
Dar Si Hmad and CloudFisher will set up the remaining billboards, then train local residents to use and maintain them. “When I leave after two or three weeks,” CloudFisher’s Trautwein said in Smithsonian, “they will tell me: ‘We understand the system; we don’t need you anymore,’ and that's perfect.”