Ice stupas were invented in 2013 by Indian engineer Sonam Wangchuk. They are essentially artificial glaciers that take wastewater flowing in the summer months and pump it uphill to be stored as ice during the winter and released once again when spring arrives. For water-scarce regions, they provide critical drinking and irrigation water during the driest months of the year.
Although invented nearly a decade ago, the concept hasn’t been widely tested in real-world settings. A team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen hope to change this with an artificial glacier installed in Ladakh, northern India.
The school’s Cryosphere and Climate Change research group identified Ladakh as a good test site as glaciers in the region have melted at record rates in recent years.
Water use in the region is high in April and May as spring crops are planted, but this demand drops significantly by September as the fall harvest ends. An ice stupa addresses this issue by capturing unused water in September and pumping it into an artificial glacier at higher elevations where the water freezes to be released the following spring, boosting water levels when it’s most needed.
Image source: BBC