Monday, May 24, 2010

Retaining Walls: to make a glacier?

I just came across an interesting article in Scientific American, which describes one man’s successful effort in using retaining walls to create artificial glaciers. I thought this was quite interesting, and since I just wrote about retaining walls, figured I’d share this.


Chewang Norphel is a retired engineer who has been working with the village of Stakmo in the Himalayas. Global warming has been reducing the glaciers in the Himalayas, and many villages are entirely dependent on water which results from glacial run-off in order to live, farm, and raise livestock.

Norphel uses masonry retaining walls to divert, capture and store run-off in a sort of reservoir; so that it freezes and forms a glacier. Subsequently, the “glacier” undergoes a natural but controlled melt, and provides run-off for the needs of the villagers.

This is a fine example of appropriate technology being used. Note that all the masonry is simple stone, found on-site. A very successful, attractive and effective system which looks like it should last for a long time with simple and modest upkeep.

Here's a great slideshow about Norphel's effort.

Masonry used for water storage will likely have a growing role globally as the need, cost and scarcity of potable water increase.

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