"The fields used to be full of snow, now they aren't at all," says Tashi Tondup, a farmer in Stakmo. Some 80 percent of Ladakhi farmers like Mr. Tondup depend on snow and glacial melt for irrigation, according to Norphel.
"We have a saying: If we sow our fields after the 21st of June, they will never grow. But this year, due to late arrival of water, we sowed our fields on the 28th of June. So we still don't know what we are going to get," says Tondup.
Norphel says his glaciers will melt in April or May.
In Sabo, manmade glacier lost to Mother Nature
Tondup hopes the effort will work. But Tsering Wangchuk knows it will. His village of Sabo had been suffering years of springtime water shortages because of declining snowfalls. So they turned to Norphel.
"After getting the glacier, [farmers] had sufficient water to do what they were doing originally – a bad situation went to normal," says Mr. Wangchuk. But the 2006 floods wiped out the glacier and earthworks.
Now Wangchuk has come to Stakmo to learn from Norphel how to rebuild a better glacier.
Norphel himself is experimenting with three different designs in Stakmo – tweaking variables such as using shadier north slopes and varying the 5-ft. to 7-ft. depths of the holding pools. He then plans to train as many villagers as possible on the most effective design.
It will take 20 people with shovels and a backhoe to build the more than 900 feet of rock walls to finish the Stakmo project. The materials are simple: dirt, pipes, rocks – and runoff from real glaciers high above.
"There needs to be some source of water," says Norphel. "When all the glaciers [are] finished, it will be very difficult to solve this problem."
A new glacier: $50,000