Scientists from the University of Aberdeen are working on artificial glaciers called ice stupas to help ease the water situation in Ladakh in the Himalayas. The region is one of the driest on the planet, with most villages facing severe water shortages, particularly in April and May. Climate change has worsened the problem, causing natural glaciers to melt. As a remedy, the artificial glaciers are used to store drain water as ice in the winter and then release it as meltwater in the spring. Pipes are buried below the frost line before the final portion stands upright. When pressure rises in the tube, the stream water ultimately rushes up and out of the pipe’s raised tip like a fountain. The water then freezes into a pyramid shape from the ice-cold air.

Engr. Sonam Wangchuk created the ice stupas in 2013, but the glaciers are still in their developing stage. On the other hand, 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 discharge millions of liters of water each year, and researchers believe that their structure makes them efficient, cost-effective, and simple to administer.