There are few places harder to quench a thirst than in the mountains of Lima, the capital of Peru. The second-largest desert city in the world is home to scarce rainfall and few water reserves, with more than two million citizens unable to rely on access to drinking water throughout the day. Those that do have access pay dearly: 23% of the country’s population consume water through the state water provider which is not fit for drinking.
Despite these challenges, an increasing number of people in the region have been given access to the precious natural resource — and it’s all because of the tireless work of a local climate engineer who changed jobs and went to work early.
Cruz is the celebrated inventor of the ‘mallas atrapanieblas’, or ‘fog catching-nets’, a revolutionary system of sheets and storage tanks that converts fog into water for farming, washing clothes and drinking. Nets are strung up in the mountains around Lima for eight months of the year, being brought down for safety during the baking summer months, and take advantage of Lima’s 98% humidity.
The practice, originally restricted to use by neighbouring families, now serves 60,000 families across the region. Cruz’s ambitions have codified into the charity Movimiento Peruanos Sin Agua (The Peruvians Without Water Movement), which has used international funding to instal 1,500 fog catching nets in the city and nearby areas.
In 2017, The NGO also won Google’s prestigious social impact across Latin America award, receiving a total of $500,000 to invest over the following 12 months. Speaking to The Comercio, Executive Director Jorge Poma Deza explained the money would be spent on an ‘aquamobile’ to transport drinking water across the region. “We’re hoping to reach 100,000 families,” he added. Coca Cola, USAID, and UNACEM are among corporate backers for the project.
Alongside the ‘atrapaienablas’ project, Peruvians Sin Agua also manages ‘cosecha de lluvia’, or the ‘water crop’, which ensures any rainfall is safely stored in a reservoir for future analysis or conversion into a safe form for consumption.