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Access to alternative fresh water sources including fog collectors, desalination, biosaline arriculture, rainwater harvesting for community, family, individual

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Page Index: | Desalination | Fog Collectors | Biosaline agriculture | Rainwater Harvesting | Water From Air | Overall Treatment | Major Sites Related: Well Water & Sanitation |
Updated: 23 May 2006 some new material 26 November 2008 Links: 22 October 2008

Water availability via fog collectors, desalination, biosaline agriculture, rainwater harvesting at community level and at the family and individual level

For pasteurization of water to make it safe to drink, see Low Tech Solar Methods To Safe Water

One of the great challenges remaining in this century is a lack in the availability of water. Water is all around us but reaching it or obtaining it in potable or, for that matter, in any form has remained a major problem. It is to the solution of this problem that this page is dedicated. About three fourths* of the planet is water and the atmospheric system is a constant recycler of water. There should be no water shortage at any time or in any place regardless of the distance from water or the growth of population.

This page will treat the following topics from the viewpoint of the small community and family for development at the local level to improve the water supply and usability situation. At the end under Resources, we have listed some of the major sources for understanding the global problem of water in conjunction with the year of fresh water as declared by the United Nations.

This page is made up of links to resources which may be of help in the initiation of increased water availability. We are highlighting three areas at present while we develop other areas. Some references will appear more than once in different sections. No matter what area you are interested in, be sure to see 'Overall Treatment of Water Resources' below.

While we concentrate on low tech solutions, we also have included
Overall Treatment of Water Resources Internationally which provides information for middle technology solutions to the water availability problem.

DESALINATION return to index


Complete Source: Using Desalination Technologies for Water Treatment (very long PDF) U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, OTA-BP-O-46 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 1988)

Other introductory treatments of the subject

  • Desalination Online Site with many resources.
  • Basic idea behind solar stills Introduction to manufactured units by Good overview which can be used to build your own.">
  • Solar-powered Desalinators to Provide Drinking Water in Arid Areas
    Rural Industries Innovation Centre (RIIC) Private Bag 11 Kanye, BOTSWANA Tel: 340392/3, 340448/9 Fax: 340642; Roger Yates Oxfam UK&I - Arusha Office Arusha, TANZANIA PO Box 6141 Tel: 057 3697 Fax: 057 8518 E-mail:
  • Small-Scale Desalinators (Botswana) "This project tested 130 desalination units made up of two types of solar stills, two woodburning stills, and one reserve osmosis unit in the remote settlements of the Kgalagadi District of Botswana. The solar still technology was well accepted with the fibre glass Mexican still being very efficient and economical. Extensive training was given to end users, and to those in local and central government whose support was needed. Efforts focused on teaching remote area dwellers (through workshops, theatre and discussion) how to look after the stills and to share the water produced..."
  • Pilot solar desalination plants in Bangladesh (pdf) The article details the experimental construction of a constructed base and walls with different materials to contain the salt water and a glass top. The brick construction while more expensive was found to be more durable and provided a higher yield than then cement plastered clay.
  • Proving test for a solar-powered desalination system in Gaza�Palestine (pdf) Desalination 137 (2001) 1�6
  • Non-conventional solar stills with charcoal particles as absorber medium (pdf) Desalination 153 (2002) 55�64 "A solar still in which charcoal functions both as heat absorber medium and as wick has been constructed...[representing]... a 15% improvement in productivity over wick-type stills, is cheap, simple to construct, and in addition has the advantages of low thermal capacity, lightweight and ease of operation. It is made of plastic outer rectangular body in which salt water is allowed to percolate through a charcoal bed of particles that extends the length of the still, and above which a glass plate is made to cover the still at an optimum distance from the charcoal bed."
  • CLOSED SYSTEM GREENHOUSES WITH INTEGRATED SOLAR DESALINATION FOR ARID REGIONS ISHS Acta Horticulturae 257: Energy Conservation and Solar Energy Utilization in Horticultural Engineering. Downloadable article costs $6.00 without membership.">SOLAR DESALINATION OF SEA WATER

Ongoing Research on Solar Stills

  • Improved System for Water Desalination by Solar Energy Prof. Gershon Grossman, Technion, Israel " generates circulation of the humid air. The air absorbs the humidity in a part of the still exposed to the sun, circulates and allows the humidity to condense in another, shaded part while preheating the feed water. Heat can be stored in the feed water so as to obtain additional evaporation and condensation that can continue after sunset and at night."
  • A solar desalination plant for domestic water needs in arid areas of South Algeria (pdf) Desalination 153 (2002) 65�69 A still which reuses vapor condensation heat through the use of a thin finely woven fabric held in contact with the glass plate which is saturated with input saline water and forms a thin capillary film. It is robust and can be installed in villages in developing countries with minimal technical expertise.


Solar Desalting

  • Solar Desalting/Water Treatment The WaTER Group has recently developed a Photovoltaic/Electrodialysis Reversal (PV/EDR) Solar Desalting System with very low power requirements. The system is capable of continuous, unattended operation and requires minimal maintenance. It successfully produced over 340 m3 (90,000 gallons) of potable water in a four month test period by demineralizing 900 mg/L TDS feedwater to 280 mg/L product water while using less than 100 watts of power. With its low power consumption, this technology has proven to be a cost-effective and reliable solution for remote sites and communities.

Reverse Osmosis


  • desalination by distillation "The multistage-flash (MSF), MED, and vapor-compression (VC) processes have led to the widespread use of distillation to desalinate seawater." Methods use the boiling of water to produce condensation. Source Book of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment, General Secretariat, Organization of American States, Washington, D.C., Details many different types of sources of useable water: freshwater augmentation, quality improvement, wastewater treatment, water conservation. Online OAS Source Book

Distillation and Reverse Osmosis and Related Operations

  • (pdf) Technical Manual Water Desalination, Headquarters, Dept of the Army, September 1986 (pdf) "This manual describes the guidelines to be followed in selecting a process capable of producing potable water supplies from brackish and sea water sources." Covers all aspects with diagrams and materials needed including pretreatment, distillation/condensation techniques, membrane techniques, ion exchange, post treatment
  • Online OAS Source Book Source Book of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment, General Secretariat, Organization of American States, Washington, D.C., Details many different types of sources of useable water: freshwater augmentation, quality improvement, wastewater treatment, water conservation.

Middle Tech low cost systems described


  • Desalination Directory Online Major desalination site with articles and listing conferences, individuals, companies, associations, journals and newsletters, articles, etc.

Search, Links, Associations & Commercial Applications


  • 712 companies
    online catalogue of qualified suppliers of products and services to the water industry.
  • LIFESTREAM Watersystems Inc is a manufacturer of water purification systems specializing in reverse osmosis technology and the design of filtration systems. A major market served is the commercial marine industry with products for private yachts, fishing vessels, and work boats, oceanographic research vessels, barges and platforms and military vessels. Other large segments include land based systems for hotel and house complexes, private home "whole house" use and small communities, industrial systems for make-up water, equipment for oil platforms, equipment for disaster and emergency use, systems for wastewater treatment and many other commercial uses.

Research and Teaching Institutions


Overview of current high technology

FOG COLLECTORS return to index
Note: Currently gathering material on hard surface fog catchers

Low tech fresh potable water supply for small communities, individuals in developing countries of potable water from mist, fog, wind through collectors, catchers, harvesting or tapping of clouds using a plastic mesh screen.


Description and Construction

  • Fog harvesting Source Book of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean. UNEP - International Environmental Technology Centre, United Nations Environment Programme "Full-scale fog collectors are simple, flat, rectangular nets of nylon supported by a post at either end and arranged perpendicular to the direction of the prevailing wind..."
  • Fog Collection Tiempo - Issue 26, December 1997 Details selection of sites for fog collection, mentions a number of projects worldwide, and gives a brief overview of the topic.
  • Harvesting Potable Water from Nature's Spring Making Coastal Deserts Green with Fog to Water Applications. Good descriptions & extensive bibliography

Fog Collection Different Parts of the World

  • Fog-harvesting for water - clouds on tap Science in Africa. Examples and a discussion of its use in different locations.
  • Living in a Coastal Desert - The Chungungo Project BBC Weather. "There are now 75 collectors, each the size of a billboard taking more than 10,000 litres a day of water to the village." "- The fog collectors in Chungungo in northern Chile provide more than 40 litres of water per person per day - compared to 14 litres before the project began giving enough water for domestic consumption and also for a few hectares of vegetable gardens. Run by the community - The collectors are managed by a local committee, which provides the community with control over their water supply. "



Nonprofit Organizations dealing with Construction

  • FogQuest "FogQuest is an international, innovative, non-governmental, non-profit organization, which implements and promotes the environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable use of fog, rain and dew as sustainable water resources for people in arid regions of developing countries" list of fog evaluation projects and projects which are completed or are underway. Funds from various sources.


  • Purified Water 'Out of Thin Air' Water Generating Machine "Produces 5-15 gallons per day on average, depending on humidity. 2 gallons in very dry climates...Needs no outside water source." See article in U.S. Water News Online Machine turns humidity into drinking water


  • Beetle Juice Dr Andrew Parker of the University of Oxford and Dr Chris Lawrence of QinetiQ - Describing the discovery of a beetle which collected its own drinking water using its heard surfaced wings. "A surface of nodules coated with wax has strong water-repellent properties, like Teflon, while smooth, wax-free surfaces actually attract water. It was the combination of both surface types that gave the beetle the ability to drink in the Namib." Describing prototypes produced by The Defence Evaluation Research Agency (now QinetiQ) at Farnborough "The prototypes collected several times more water than can be collected by netting and was also more resilient."

  • Tolerance of crop and garden plants to salty water Gives a good discussion of what salinity means and ways to deal with it. Also gives a listing of plants which will grow in different degrees of salinity. Department of Agriculture Western Australia

Project giving extensive information

  • Biosalinity Awareness Project advocating vegetative approaches to the rehabilitation of salt-affected lands for both commercial and environmental purposes. An independent, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of, and exploring solutions to, the pressing problems of salinity in our environment with a particular focus on biosaline agriculture and sustainable biomass production.
    • Contains extensive list of salt-tolerant plant, uses and links
    • Links to commercial seed companies, germplasm collections & public seed banks, Salinity test kits & handbooks, halophyte databases
    • Provides indepth delineation and discussion of topic.
  • Halophytes � A resource for the future (pdf) Wetlands Ecology and Management6:455�456, 2001.� 2001Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands

Plants for Saltlands

Measurement of Salinity

  • Testing salinity of soils deals with testing the salinity of soil and the plants which will grow in different degrees of salinity
  • Links to salinity measurements. Department of Agriculure Western Australia.
  • Success stories in saline agriculture in Pakistan (pdf) " examples of successes in translating techniques from the laboratory to the farming community. Examples are given of projects demonstrating the use of halophytic species for fodder and fuel production, and improvements due to new agronomic techniques and plant breeding." From research to production and development. BAC Saline Agriculture Conference: March 19-21, 2001 "Traditional plant breeding has successfully developed salt-tolerant varieties of several crops, while wide hybridisation has incorporated genes for tolerance from related species into wheat. However, to ensure that breeders produce what farmers need, it is important that farmers participate fully in the production of new varieties, and an example of a successful participatory trial from India is given."
  • The use of saline waters for crop production - FAO irrigation and drainage (paper 48 pp) Click on Table of Contents. "These guidelines are addressed primarily to those involved with irrigated agriculture, soil and water conservation, and environmental protection. Emphasis is on the avoidance of waterlogging and secondary salination problems (both in soils and water supplies) associated with irrigation."
    Combat Desertification lining irrigation canals and feed irrigation. Technical paper giving tolerance of plants to salt and boron
  • Using saline water for irrigation Agnote. Discussion and Salinity tolerance in irrigated crops for vegetable crops, fruit crops, field crops, forage crops including among others: ion toxicity, managing, monitoring, leaching



Journals and Newsletters


  • Salt Tolerant Pasture Grasses OPUS gives many studies, mainly in different parts of Australia by individual landowners and some institutes: including Puccinellia Dundas Tall Wheatgrass, Distichlis sp, Diplachne, Rhodes Grass, Wild Ryegrass, Various spp
  • Salt Tolerant Crops OPUS covers several studies on barley, wheat and wildwheet, lentils. See in particular,
  • WildWheat "WildWheat grain, grown even in full-strength sea water is not salty. The total ash content is less than wheat or barley. The plant excretes the salt via salt glands, keeping the grain and the tissues low in salt content. This means that even the forage can be grazed by cattle without ill effects."
  • Background on Salt Tolerant Plants and Their Uses Excellent references Griffin Shay (1990) of the National Research Council has assembled an excellent little book, Saline Agriculture: Salt-tolerant Plants for Developing Countries, of which I was honored to help edit. This book has also been translated into Chinese. Aronson's (1989) Haloph, is also an excellent condensed listing of many halophyte species and was an inspiration to the present volume. Other listings of halophyte species can be found in FAO's Halophytes of Latin America and the World: their use with saline & waste waters and marginal soils which is in both Spanish and English (Yensen 1998); Halophytes of the Gulf of California and their Uses (Yensen 1999) is also in Spanish and English; Duncan's (1974) Vascular halophytes of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts; Macdonald and Barbour's (1974) Beach and salt marsh vegetation of the North American Pacific coast;
  • Online Book - Saline and Alkali Soils - Handbook No. 60 Saline and Alkali Soils 1954
  • Agricultural Salinity and Drainage. Water Management Handbook Series, publication #93-01. 1993, 156 pp - Publication 93-01 - $25 Last revised 03/03
  • Prospects for Saline Agriculture Edited volume edited Rafiq Ahmad, University of Karachi, Pakistan; Kauser A. Malik, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan

Books and Articles Biosaline Agriculture

  • Saline Agriculture: Salt-Tolerant Plants for Developing Countries by National Research Council Panel on Saline Agriculture in U.S.
  • National Academies Press Saline Agriculture: Salt-Tolerant Plants for Developing Countries. Read it free online
  • Kluwer Academic "Prospects for Saline Agriculture" 2002, 480 pages. $193.00 + shipping ($5.00, U.S. or $10.00 Elsewhere) "Saline land is a resource capable of significant production. Recent advances in research in breeding for salt tolerance in wheat, biotechnology in rice, and selection and rehabilitation of salt-tolerant plants are of economic importance in arid/saline conditions. This book gives some practical approaches for saline agriculture and afforestation, and describes examples of cultivating salt-tolerant/halophytic plants for commercial interest on salt-affected land or with highly salinized water in Australia, China, Central Asia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Russia. It also explores the possibilities of arid/saline agriculture and afforestation in UAE"

Rainwater Harvesting
return to index
  • Rainwater Harvesting Wikipedia's very helpful introduction to the topic. Also see: Components of a domestic RWH system With supporting information on many facits of the technology as well as user behavior, health aspects, and references.
  • Rainwater Harvesting And Utilisation An Environmentally Sound Approach for Sustainable Urban Water Management: An Introductory Guide for Decision-Makers. The United Nations Environment Programme. Introductory Chapters: " Why should rainwater harvesting and utilisation be promoted? - The need for environmentally sound solutions, 3. General description of the technology, 4. How can rainwater harvesting and utilisation contribute to a sustainable water strategy?, 5. What must be considered from quality and health aspects in utilising rainwater?, 6. What must be considered to design and maintain facilities for rainwater utilisation? "
  • How To Harvest: Case studies both rural and urban for India and internationally, along with treatment of traditions. CSE needs your help to create a nation-wide database (India) of Urban Rainwater Harvesting structures and practitioners, which can be accessed by all online (link to form).
  • Rainwater-Harvesting Info/Resources
  • Water and Sanitation UNEP A good source to look for latest publications on rainwater harvessting and other water issues.

Water From The Air
return to index
  • Alternate Energy Sources Discusses the principles behind a number of current water from air generating systems. The Whisson Windmill and Water From Air - Of Condensation and Salt

  • The Environmentalist Magazine Discusses a number of currently available air to water generators each of which can produce substantial volumes of water per day.

  • Low Tech Water From Air Basic principle of dew collection using a collapsable structure.

    Several of the many commercial units now available (recommendation is not implied):
    • EWA Technologies Group daily capacity from few tens of liters per day and up to 1,000 cubic meters. Company will be available at 2008 Water Asia Exhibition, Pragati Maidan Exhibiton Centre, New Delhi, India. PAVILION 156a "Come to see us. Just tell us your needs, and we will provide the solution." home "The EWA technology is based on capturing of the air humidity and releasing this humidity as liquid water. The EWA technology is composed of three main stages: 1. Adsorption of air humidity 2. Desorption of the absorbed water 3. Condensation" "Only minor electricity consumption is required, while the required energy is heat energy. Combining of residual (waste) or solar heat sources allows producing water at a cost of about US$0.5/ cubic meter of water (based on US energy prices)."
    • Air Water Corporation
    • Aqua Sciences "Container models can produce up to 1,200 gallons of water per day for 7 days without outside electrical source or refueling. The 40 foot container with the reverse osmosis module can provide emergency water for up to 3,000 people per day. " 20 foot unit produces 500 gal per day. Diesel generator or off electrical grid.

    Air Wells
    return to index
    Provided as a stimulus to ideas and inventions.
  • Air Wells, Fog Fences & Dew Ponds Methods for Recovery of Atmospheric Humidity. Excellent description of patents and ideas in field. Also see: Recovery of Atmospheric Humidity (Air Wells) US & Foreign Patents

    Overall Treatment of Water Resources
    return to index
    • Water Links Worldwide UNESCO
    • Flood of gateways and portals on water hosted by IRC - International Water and Sanitation Centre - News and information, advice, research and training, on low-cost water supply and sanitation in developing countries.
    • Water and Sanitation UNEP A good source to look for latest publications on rainwater harvessting and other water issues.
    • Source Book of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean UNEP - International Environmental Technology Centre, United Nations Environment Programme "...comprehensive inventory of technologies available in Latin America and the Caribbean for augmenting and maximizing the use of existing freshwater resources in order to assist water resource planners and managers, in both governmental and non governmental organizations and institutions, by providing them with information on different types of technologies." Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment, General Secretariat, Organization of American States Covers freshwater augmentation techniques including rainwater harvesting, fog harvesting, runoff collection, water conveyance, artificial recharge of aquifers, pumps), water quality improvement techniques (desalination, clarification using plants, disinfection, filtration), Wastewater treatment technologies. "The main objective of this project is to address the need of Asian planners for information appropriate to maximize and augment available freshwater resources using appropriate technologies. To achieve this objective, it is necessary to provide water resource managers with information on different technologies used within the Region to augment and maximize freshwater resources, and on specific experiences with these technologies from throughout the Region." Includes: water conservation and water conservation.
    • The Sourcebook of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Africa International Environmental Technology Centre of the UNEP United Nations Environment Programme Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics in cooperations with the Institute of Water and Sanitation Development (IWSD) in collaboration with the Centre Regional pour L'Eau Potable et l'Assainissement a Faible Cout (CREPA), the Network for Water and Sanitation International (NETWAS) and the Training, Research and Network for Development (TREND) as part of the joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Water Branch and International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) initiative..." Agricultural technologies, domestic water supply, and mining and industry with case studies
    • Sourcebook of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Some Countries in Asia prepared by the Danish Hydraulic Institute International Environmental Technology Centre of the UNEP United Nations Environment Programme joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Water Branch and International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) initiative. In particular, covers the following: 1. Water Conservation Technologies, 2. Wastewater Treatment and Reuse Technologies, 3. Freshwater Augmentation, 4. Upgrading Water Quality, Case studies
    • Sourcebook of Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augumentation in Small Island Developing States
    • UNESCO Water Links Worldwide Extensive bibliography of articles and resources on water including: Climatic zones, Ecosystems land forms and land use, Extreme water events, Hydrological cycle, Irrigation and drainage, Water and society, Water quality and contamination, Water related processes, Water resources system, Water supply and sanitation, Water use
    • LOW TECH Agricultural Training Organizations from ECHO: Networking Global Hunger Solutions.

    References return to index

    Below we present two distributors of treadle pumps not as recommendations but to show its use and availability.

    • Treadle Pumps for Irrigation in Africa Treadle Pumb Programme - International Development Enterprises (India). Impact, gender friendly, photos. "We facilitate the sale of different models of the treadle pump to small and marginal farm families in the eastern zone of India. Since inception in 1991, we have ensured the purchase of around 300,000 treadle pumps by small and marginal farm families. IDE (India) does not involve in direct selling. Rather, we ensure sale of our pumps through the private marketing channel comprising village-based distributors, dealers, mistries, government sales depots (in the case of Orissa) and even NGOs."
    •">Malawi Treadle Pump "The Malawi Treadle Pumps is a high capacity Treadle pump designed to lift water from shallow wells & surface sources. It can be operated by either one person standing on the wooden treadles or 2 persons standing on opposite sides of the Handle Assembly. "
    • CEP Desalination, Dec 2002 Issue Includes (High Tech) Evaluating the Economics of Desalination This article presents an in-depth analysis of thermal and membrane desalination economics

    Resources return to index
    • Information and exampls of pumps, rainwater harvesting, water purifier, arsenic filter, low cost water storage system, drip irrigation, etc.
    • SONO filter Developed by Abul Hussam. Widly distributed in bangladesh. "...distributed 32,500 of the filters in Bangladesh, including to more than 1,000 schools. “We are beginning to see the effect of drinking clean water on patients being cured of melanosis and keratosis [skin ailments], and most people feel better,” he said. People are also more aware of the importance of clean, potable water."
    • Kanchan Filter Scaling up Successful Kanchan Arsenic Filter Dissemination from Nepal to Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Affected Asian Countries. Three phases to study of filter: First phase: The laboratory study phase was successfully completed in 2006 by the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) with support from the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) and MIT. The 8-week laboratory study showed that the KAF consistently removes over 90% arsenic, total coliforms, and E.coli from arsenic-contaminated groundwater near Phnom Penh. Another laboratory study found that the formation of red rust using small nails is crucial to the filter performance. Low cost Shapla-arsenic filter "The filter consists of a 30-litre container filled with filter media: ferrous sulfate solution bonded to crushed brick particles. 20 kg of the media filters 4,000 liters of arsenic-contaminated water (at 0.3-0.4 ppm) reducing arsenic concentrations to undetectable levels and supplying an average family with 25-32 liters of safe drinking water per day."
    • For information on filter and costs

    Important Links for information, discussion, papers on the water problem facing the planet

    Overall assessment of the water problems and opportunities facing planet The UN World Water Development Report

    • Fresh Water Excellent access to many of the current problems regarding water worldwide with links to other major sites.
    • WPoA [not accessable when checked] Prototype of the World Water Portal. "The Water Portal of the Americas is a water information service, including an Internet web site and other initiatives to enhance the availability of quality water information." "...The purpose of the Water Portal of the Americas will be to improve access to information thus facilitating the decision-making process."

    Some of the major water sites for information
    return to index

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