Himalaya Water Towers: Artificial Vertical Glaciers

The Himalaya Water Tower is more than just the winner of the 2012 Skyscraper Competition, it’s a visionary solution to looming water management problems caused by the melting of glaciers in the world’s tallest mountain range due to climate change. If replicated in quantity, this innovative tower could some day ensure steady supplies of fresh water for future generations.

New Clear Meltdown

(images via: Asia Society, Wild China, Himalayan Consensus and Mark’s China Blog)

Think “Himalaya” and what comes to mind are mountains and glaciers. What isn’t immediately apparent is the life-giving water provided by those glaciers in the form of meltwater and renewed each winter by snowy storms. The approximately 55,000 icy glaciers in the Himalayan region hold 40 percent of the world’s fresh water and together act as the main water source for 7 of the world’s great rivers… and hundreds of millions of people who depend on them.

(images via: Yanko Design and Knight Science Journalism Tracker)

The local hydrological cycle has generally been a self-sustaining mechanism for millions of years. Lately, however, the Himalayan glaciers (along with those in other parts of the world) have been retreating at an alarming rate under the influence of Global Warming. Some studies predict that water flow from the mountains will be significantly diminished in as little as a half century from now, while the glaciers themselves will have vanished completely by the year 2162.

(image via: Environment 360)

While reversing, stopping or even slowing the inexorable progress of Global Warming may be beyond our capabilities, adapting to future realities on the ground is quite doable – in fact, it’s not an option: do or die. Adapting to the environment is one attribute humans excel at, and we’ve been doing just that since the African rainforests began to be replaced by grassy open savannah.

Sustaining Peak Utilization

(images via: ArquIdeas, Greenpeace and TIME)

Taking into account the decline of the Himalayan glaciers and the loss of their water management capability, it’s obvious there’s a real need for some sort of replacement regimen. Chinese designer/engineers Zhi Zheng, Hongchuan Zhao and Dongbai Song have put forth a tantalizing proposal that combines human scientific ingenuity with a practical, prescient vision for a sustainable future.

(images via: eVolo and SmartPlanet)

“Himalaya Water Tower” so impressed the jury at eVolo Magazine’s 2012 Skyscraper Competition, that the team of Zheng, Zhao and Song were awarded First Prize. The stated intent of the 6-year-old competition is “to discover young talent, whose ideas will change the way we understand architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments.”

(image via: Gigazine)

While not a skyscraper per se, the prototypical Himalaya Water Tower is certainly tall: the expected temperature differences between each tower’s upper, central and lower portions are critical to its proper functioning as a water storage and dispersal device. Like the mighty Himalayas themselves, the towers will store ice in their heights and liquid water in their roots.


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