Are you staying hydrated? If you’ve had at least one full glass of clean drinking water today, consider yourself lucky. According to the World Water Council, one out of six people lack access to safe drinking water–that’s over 1.1 billion people worldwide and growing every day. If you’re wondering how access to water could be a problem for a planet that’s practically covered in the stuff, consider this: 40 percent of the world’s fresh water is locked within 55,000 glaciers located high in the Himalaya Mountains.
The question is: how do we get it out? Well, so far, climbing temperatures due to climate change seem to be doing the trick. But as these massive ice sheets melt at a faster-than-ever pace, they pose an increased flood risk for the villages and cities that sit on the seven rivers that are fed from the Himalayas’ runoff. Capturing this runoff in a way that protects Asian populations while preserving the priceless fresh water supply inspired a team of Chinese designers to invent a space-age water tower that just might have real world potential.
Looking like something straight of The Lord of the Rings, the “Himalaya Water Tower” would store water in six stem-like pipes and then regulate its dispersal to the land below as the mountains’ natural supplies dry up. The designers, Zhi Zheng, Hongchuan Zhao, Dongbai Song, say the skyscraper will collect water in the rainy season, purify it, freeze it into ice and store it for future use.
“At the bottom of the structure, surrounding the six intertwined water tubes is a transport system that regulates fresh water distribution to the towns and cities below. The curving channels connect the mountains to the villages, and are also hold within them a railway for the transport of people and goods,” write the designers.
It sounds like a great idea, and would certainly address a pressing needs of those living in and near the Himalayas, but the designers have yet to address how such complex towers would be erected in challenging mountainous terrain.