In a Fog (copy)

Dan Fernandez, showing off a fog collector 2016, says he likes foggy weather: “I do like the fog. When it comes, I’m excited.”

If there’s one thing the Monterey Bay area has plenty of, it’s fog. A researcher at CSU Monterey Bay does not see the low-hanging cloud formation as a weather condition but as a sustainable source of water. (It turns out that in every cubic yard’s worth of fog, there’s a droplet of water the size of a small raisin.)

For the last 15 years, professor Dan Fernandez has been investigating how fog collection can complement limited water resources in coastal regions like Monterey County. His research has now been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense. On September 10, 2019, CSUMB announced that Fernandez’s study on fog collection is receiving a research grant for $266,589 from the DoD to continue his work.  

The grant money will allow Fernandez to purchase two $60,000 devices, called FM-120s, that can measure fog characteristics like wind speed, duration, and water droplet size. The data collected from these instruments will provide Information that airports and other transportation agencies require to assess fog density. The data will also contribute to the understanding of the phenomena associated with how clouds develop and evaporate. Additionally, the data will be useful to the military because heavy fog can make it hard for units to see.. 

Fernandez has fog collectors on-site at CSUMB, and several others are located throughout Monterey County. The fog collectors are made up of a mesh screen, the size of a television set,  supported by a 9-foot tall post that captures water in fog. The amount of water is significant—enough hydrate several trees on his campus—but not enough to supply a major population center. ”Fog collection is challenging for use as a large-scale water resource but is certainly complementary,” Fernandez says. 

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Chile, Peru, and Ecuador are among the place where water is being harvested from fog. 

Because the construction of the mesh nets is not expensive, over time fog collection is a viable resource for water. The mesh captures the tiny droplets of water and funnels the water into a conduit. Fog collectors are best suited for communities that offer significant spaces of land as well as plenty of fog. Not unlike wind turbines, they have the potential to take up land space.

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