How to build better ice towers for drinking water and irrigation

During winter in India’s mountainous Ladakh region, some farmers use pipes and sprinklers to construct building-sized cones of ice. These towering, humanmade glaciers, called ice stupas, slowly release water as they melt during the dry spring months for communities to drink or irrigate crops. But the pipes often freeze when conditions get too cold, stifling construction.

Now, preliminary results show that an automated system can erect an ice stupa while avoiding frozen pipes, using local weather data to control when and how much water is spouted. What’s more, the new system uses roughly a tenth the amount of water that the conventional method uses, researchers reported June 23 at the Frontiers in Hydrology meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.