Guatemala - Lake Atitlán 2003-2005

Update 2009

We receive requests occasionally from groups interested in a new fog collection project in the vicinity of Lake Atitlán. So far none have been carried very far forward. This remains a viable type of water supply for communities in the region but first the social issues to do with security and finding a motivated community in need of water must be dealt with. The FogQuest work around the lake stopped, not because of a lack of fog water, but because of the situation described below, which made it unsafe for our volunteers to continue to be there.

Update February 2005

Darrell Piekarz arrived in Guatemala the first week of December. Rick Taylor, Tara Cracknell, Jesse Cracknell and Steven Schnoor arrived in January for ten days to assist with the project. The on-going situation is complex and we have taken down the large fog collector at Las Trampas and it is in storage. The community has been embroiled in acrimonious discussions with the municipality regarding the dumping of garbage in their area and is very upset about a Canadian-American mining company that threatens their valley. As a result they are now very distrustful of outsiders, and foreigners in particular. Therefore, it was best and safest for us to relocate our efforts. We are now making initial measurements in La Ventosa, where the reception from the community has been warm, and in the larger community of Santa Caterina Ixtuahacan where the mayor and community are also receptive because of their water needs. We have two local people Daniel Jiatz, who reports to FogQuest, and Ishmael, from AMSCLAE, as our contacts with these communities. They speak both Spanish and the local dialect. They will do the public education and presentations over the next months to build trust and explain the project. Steven Schnoor, whose background is in communications and culture, will prepare some guidance for them in terms of products in Spanish.

Update May 2004

Rick Taylor, one of the directors of FogQuest, was at the Lake Atitlan field site in March, 2004, with his daughter Tara. Rick constructed two Large Fog Collectors using metal posts and techniques that he is testing to ultimately make the LFCs more uniform at the different sites. One LFC went up on a farm property at Las Trampas and one at a similar property at La Fe. Initially the water is being used by the farmers and in one case goes into a community reservoir. Staff of both VSF-Francia and AMSCLAE are continuing to collect data from the SFCs that were installed earlier. This will give us a better understanding of the distribution of fog and rain in the area around Lake Atitlan. The data are being analyzed by FogQuest volunteers in Chile. The site with the highest water production to date has been Las Trampas, indicating that it was a good choice for one of the initial LFCs. During a six week period in the summer, there will be a FogQuest student, Nicholas Arsenault, in the field to document both current water usage and water needs of the people living in the rural areas around the lake. Our goal is to complete a needs assessment by the fall of 2004 and secure funding to increase the water production in the area around the lake over the winter period.

Update February 2004

Juan Luis Garcia, from Chile, has now installed 15 SFCs in the watershed around Lake Atitlan. The lake itself is at 1600 m and the SFCs are being placed at altitudes from 1800 to 3000 m. When the rains stop, over the period from approximately December to April, the people in rural areas have a serious shortage of potable water. FogQuest is working with Veterinarians Without Borders (France), directed by Gonzalo Cardona, and the government watershed authority, AMSCLAE, directed by Juan Skinner, to assess whether using fog collectors to collect both fog and the occasional rainfall can provide a new source of clean water. Funding for the construction of the SFCs is coming from the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala. In March 2004, Rick Taylor, one of the directors of FogQuest, will be in the project area installing two large fog collectors to both serve as a demonstration of the technology and to provide a useful amount of clean water for the people. We are actively looking for donations to expand the project in this part of Guatemala.

Update December 2003

Field Work Begins: The new initiative to build and install 15 Standard Fog Collectors in the area around Lake Atitlan is beginning in December 2003. This will allow the amount of available fog water to be determined and plans to be put in place for a larger project. FogQuest is working with VSF, AMSCLAE and the Canadian Embassy on the evaluation. A student from the University of Waterloo in Canada, Melissa Rosato, will go for the first part of the December to March project followed by Juan Luis Garcia from Chile. More details will follow.

Background

FogQuest has begun the groundwork for an evaluation of the fog collection potential in both the highlands around Lake Atitlán in Guatemala and in a second area to the north. Darrell Piekarz, a FogQuest volunteer, spend several months in Guatemala discussing rural water needs and future cooperative work. The potential partners include the Lutheran church, the NGO Veterinarios Sin Fronteras – Francia, and the Guatemalan government agency, The Lake Atitlán Sustainable Management Authority. The projects would have two main thrusts, one is to provide water to the people of the area for their crops in the dry winter period, the other is to understand the contribution of fog water to the watershed and how the water can be managed to benefit the watershed