Ice Stupas - bringing water to some of the driest, coldest places on Earth

Ice Stupas - bringing water to some of the driest, coldest places on Earth

The University of Aberdeen are working with partners to enhance an innovation that is providing vital water in some of the most arid places on the planet.

Ice Stupas are artificial glaciers used for storing winter water for use in the arid months when meltwater is scarce.

The Ice Stupa was invented by engineer Sinam Wangchuk in Ladakh, India in 2013. Since then, the Ice Stupa project has grown and received international acclaim.

Shrinking glaciers combined with drier winters, as a result of climate change, have led to frequent and extended droughts, which are now threatening the life-sustaining crops that are cultivated by rural communities in some of the coldest and driest parts of the world.

The Cryosphere and Climate Change research group of the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi (India), has shown that ‘glacier shrinkage’ in Ladakh, northern India, has increased at a dramatic pace over the last two decades.

For Ladakh, a ‘cold desert’ with very little precipitations, the Ice Stupas have become a lifeline – providing essential meltwater to extend the otherwise very limited crop growing season by several weeks.

The Ice Stupa concept is not new and could be linked to the ancient, fascinating practice of ‘glacier grafting’ and, more recently, the building of ‘artificial glaciers’, which typically occur at high elevations, far from villages and hence difficult to maintain.

The Ice Stupas are instead built next to where the water is needed most, right on the outskirts of villages, near their fields.

The size and shape of ice stupas make them particularly efficient, inexpensive, and easy to maintain. They can release millions of litres of water each year.

The project is still in its infancy, and more work is needed, from technical aspects, such as ways to avoid water freezing in the pipelines and site selection, to a better understanding of local micro-climates and an improved distribution of water across multiple users and villages.

The University of Aberdeen, funded by the Scottish Funding Council, is working to establish a long-lasting collaboration with the local ice stupa team and academic colleagues in India to provide some of the answers to these questions.

Professor Matteo Spagnolo, of the University of Aberdeen’s Cryosphere and Climate Change Research Group, said: “Glaciers are exceptionally good and reliable indicators of climate change. Put in the simplest terms, as temperatures rise, glaciers shrink and may eventually disappear. As well as being photogenic, spectacular emblems of climate change, glaciers are also, for many communities, an irreplaceable source of fresh water.

“Our research has shown that mountain glaciers in Ladakh are retreating at an increasing rate, and so it is clear that interventions such as ice stupas are essential.”

Dr Anshuman Bhardwaj, also from the University of Aberdeen team, added: “We are working closely with our partners in the Ice Stupa project team to help with some of the aspects of the technical and logistical challenges and also looking to better understand the rate of glacier retreat and how this can inform our strategy going forward.”

Search News

Browse by Month

2024

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2024
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2024
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2024
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2024
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2024
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2024
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2024
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2024
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2024
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2024
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2024

2021

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2021
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2021
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2021
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2020

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2020
  2. Feb
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2020
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2020
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2020
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2020
  7. Jul
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2020
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2020
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2019

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2019
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2019
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2019
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2018

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2018
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2018
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2017

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2017
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2016

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2016
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2016
  6. Jun
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2016
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2016
  12. Dec

2014

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2014
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec

2013

  1. Jan
  2. Feb
  3. Mar
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2013
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2013

2012

  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2012
  3. Mar
  4. Apr
  5. May
  6. Jun
  7. Jul
  8. Aug
  9. Sep
  10. Oct
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2012
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2012

2011

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2011
  2. Feb
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2011
  4. Apr
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2011
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2011
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2011
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2011
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2011
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2011
  11. Nov
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2011

2010

  1. Jan There are no items to show for January 2010
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2010
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2010
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2010
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2010
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2010
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2010
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2010
  9. Sep
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2010
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2010
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2010