Artificial Ice Reservoirs (AIR) 

Glaciers and seasonal snow cover are expected to change their water storage capacity with major consequences for downstream water supply. The challenges brought about by these changes are especially important for mountain communities, which directly rely on the seasonal glacial melt cycle for their farming needs. Some villages, mainly in the region of Ladakh, have been using Artificial Ice Reservoirs(also called as Icestupas) as a tool to adapt to these changes
AIRs are economically feasible and energy neutral making it a great asset for climate change adaptation measures. The main purpose of AIR is irrigation. The water contained in the ice reservoirs should be released during the growing season. To fulfill this requirement, AIR is constructed in higher altitudes, in shadowed zones and shaped according to requirement.
Although many villages have been constructing Artificial Ice Reservoirs, there doesnt exist any reliable estimate of the water discharged by AIRs to date. Also the construction decisions used are based on qualitative rather than quantitative judgements. Thus, development of a predictive model that can provide quantitative meltwater estimates is crucial if this technology is to become a viable water resource management strategy.
It is the aim of this research project to do so by documenting the formation and melting process of AIRs in Ladakh through field measurements and physical modelling approaches. This will further help quantify and guide construction decisions around location, water discharge and fountain design. Also the model produced forms the basis for predicting meltwater discharge from AIRs in other mountain regions.
Research aims:
1. To quantify the total meltwater discharged.
2. To estimate the survival duration of the ice structures.

Duration: 2018-2022

Funded by: Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship

Collaborators: Martin Hoelzle (Prof.), Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian (PhD student), Michael Lehning (Prof.), Sonam Wangchuk, Jordi Bolibar, Tom Matthews, J.Oerlemans, Felix Keller


Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian

Department of Geosciences

University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4

CH–1700 Fribourg

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