Researcher “bugged” about water conservation

What can a small African insect teach us about water conservation? Quite a lot as it turns out. By observing how the Namibian desert beetle survives in the Namib Desert’s perpetually dry climate, a British architectural designer came up with a new way to harvest water. This demonstrated that big ideas could indeed come from the smallest of sources.

While visiting Namibia, Africa, Matthew Parkes learned of the desert beetle’s survival techniques from local residents. By lifting its shell, the insect is able to trap moisture from the morning fog blowing in from the ocean. The water is then channeled to its mouth. Parkes was inspired, and proceeded to design a fog-catcher that was subsequently incorporated into the design of the University of Namibia’s Hydrological Center. A tall nylon mesh screen collects moisture from the fog and channels it to underground storage tanks where it can be utilized.

Dr. Joh Henschel of the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia states, “The places where these fog-collecting systems are planned receive four- to eight-tenths of an inch of rainfall per year. People are currently dependent on receding groundwater.” He believes the fog-collecting systems will provide a sustainable source of water for the country’s population. This technology is being used to design self- contained vacation units capable of producing a sufficient supply of water to meet the needs of the occupants. This will not only lessen the impact on existing groundwater supplies, but will also help to generate badly needed tourist dollars.

Parkes believes larger buildings could also use this technology to generate needed water supplies. It can even be used inside buildings. The possibility may exist to use mesh designs to collect water from atriums in office buildings. Time will tell how far this technology can be developed and what applications may arise, however, it does show that sometimes solutions to big problems can come from the smallest and perhaps most unlikely sources.

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