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UW Today

In the fog chamber, a thick cool mist rolls from one end to the other blurring glasses, wetting caps and coats and sending water dripping down the latest test panel.

University of Washington students have been testing low-cost materials capable of harvesting water from fog in a temporary “hoop house” next to the Botany Greenhouse. They create the fog with a specially adapted power washer and record how much water condenses and drips off various panels of low-cost materials, such as shade cloth.

They specifically want to find a way to help residents on the northern edge of Lima, Peru, where less than half an inch of rain falls, but heavy fogs occur consistently for six to nine months a year. The faculty and students are seeking a way to condense enough water to irrigate new plantings that would, in turn, harvest fog on their own, naturally bringing water into the landscape, said Susan Bolton, a professor of environmental and forest sciences and one of the group’s instructors.

To that end, they are also testing various plants as fog collectors: Vines, for example, because winemaking is a growing industry in Peru and residents might plant vineyards. Or perhaps a city park with trees could be created.