Scientists from the University of Aberdeen are currently developing ice stupas to solve the water crisis in Ladakh, Northern India, situated in the Himalayas. The region is one of the aridest places worldwide, with most settlements experiencing acute water shortages to grow crops, especially in April and May. The problem has gotten worse due to climate change, resulting in natural glaciers melting. To solve this, the artificial glaciers are used to retain wastewater as ice in the winter and then release it as meltwater in the spring. Pipes are buried below the frost level before the final segment rises vertically. The stream water eventually rushes up and out of the tube’s raised tip like a fountain when pressure builds in the pipe. The sub-zero air then freezes the water into a pyramid-like shape.

The ice stupas were built by Engr. Sonam Wangchuk in 2013, but researchers say the glaciers are still “in their infancy.” However, Aberdeen’s Cryosphere and Climate Change research group is improving the technology to use it more widely. “Our research has shown that mountain glaciers in Ladakh are retreating at an increasing rate, so it is clear that interventions such as ice stupas are essential,” said Prof. Matteo Spagnolo from the university team. The artificial glaciers can release millions of liters of water each year, and researchers claim that the size and shape make them efficient, economical, and easy to manage.