Innovative solution to fresh water scarcity in Sumba Island

Climate change, natural disasters, and water scarcity are big challenges that countries are facing at this time. Indonesia is suffering the consequences of climate change being more prone to the occurrence of natural disasters due to rising temperatures and sea levels. It generates a cascade effect where the main consequences are water scarcity, stress, and pollution. Consequently, the environment and the economy of the communities are directly affected. Sumba Island is one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia, with a low Human Development Index. More than 63% of the community has no access to clean water. The Island presents one of the most challenging cases of drought-dominant hazard hotspots in South East Asia. The prolonged drought season lasts seven months and the strong dry Australian wind dries out of the soil. Its unique limestone landscape causes high calcium levels in groundwater which is unsafe for drinking. Water scarcity issues result in high rates of malaria, diarrhoea, bladder disease, kidney infections, and infant mortality.

The project supported by the SFC-GCRF was led by Dr Yun Ii Go, Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia. The team members comprise Olga Potapova-Crighton (Heriot-Watt University Dubai), Dr Mahawan Karuniasa (University of Indonesia), Laily Himayati (Hivos Southeast Asia), and Jeeten Kumar (Resilience Development Initiative). The interdisciplinary and multi-county team carried out a techno-socio-economic study of customized Fog-to-Water (FtW) solutions to resolve the water scarcity issues that have adversely affected these vulnerable communities. This association emerged as a result of the GCRF Workshop ‘Climate Change Impacts on Vulnerable Communities in SE Asia – Understanding and Adaptation’ carried out at Heriot-Watt Malaysia, being one of the six award-winning initiatives.  

‘Fog water collection technique is passive, low maintenance, and sustainable option that can supply fresh drinking water to communities where fog is a common phenomenon. This harvesting system involves the use of mesh nets to collect water as fog passes through them. It only requires minimal cost for the operation and maintenance. It seems to be a promising method to overcome water scarcity and water demand for Indonesia and Southeast Asia’, Dr Mahawan Karuniasa and Olga Potapova-Crighton.

‘The outcome of the proposed activities is expected to promote physical, economic development, social welfare and environmental resilience of the community on the impacts of climate change which is directly in line with the Indonesian Government’s National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Indonesia Climate Change Sectoral Roadmap.’ Dr Yun Ii Go.

In this phase, the team has demonstrated a positive engagement with the community and the decision-makers. It has enhanced the awareness of approaches to resolve water scarcity and promoting cooperation between the local authorities and the community. These are part of the efforts developed by the partnership between the University of Indonesia, HIVOS ( mission is to amplify and connect voices that promote social and environmental justice and challenge power imbalances), and the Resilience Development Initiative with HWU. For the next phase, the team is expecting to install a full-scale prototype in the community that enables to improve the living condition in the village and to solve the water scarcity problem. This work also leads to three publications and one policy brief paper:

  1. Fog-to-Water for Water Scarcity in Climate-Change Hazards Hotspots: Pilot Study in Southeast Asia
  2. Techno-socio-economic analysis of fog-to-water solution for climate change hazard area: Sumba Island, Indonesia
  3. Treading Water in a Savannah: The Reality of Water Scarcity in East Sumba
  4. Analysis of El-Nino Phenomenon in East Nusa Tenggara Province (accepted)