These bunchgrass individuals are growing on almost bare stone, high on a slope three hundred metres above the valley floor and little troubled by weeds. This is the cloud zone that has kept the cold away for the last month, and the zone that has seen skiffs of overnight snow overnight for the past week, which melts away by mid-day. These grasses aren’t gathering their water from the soil. There is none.
The Beauty of Verticality
Bunchgrass combing water out of the air and quickly channelling it down their stems to their hearts, which release it slowly to their roots.
Why don’t we see human tech as elegant as that in a valley in which the water passes through in one season, for many long grey months, and then gives way to drought? Fog fences, or fog collectors, do exist. Here’s are two small experimental ones run by the United States Geological Survey. Neither is quite as clever as that bunchgrass, but it’s a start. Look at all the water they might be able to comb out:
A Water Blanket Warming the Winter Valley
This is what a semi-desert wet season looks like, as vertical temperature changes condense eastward-moving ocean air.
Fog contains about .05 grams of water per cubic metre. To collect any appreciable amount would mean arranging fog fences in such a way as to strip entire clouds of their water— quite the mega-engineering feat.
But maybe there’s a way. The trick may not be to try to sieve vast amounts of air but simply to have many thousands of tiny, inexpensive devices, all combing tiny amounts out of, say, a one-metre-high vertical drop.
What if we could grow, rather than manufacture water collection technology, and bring the sky down to earth?