CHARIS Project Overview

The Contribution to High Asia Runoff from Ice and Snow, or CHARIS, project aims to systematically assess the role that glaciers and seasonal snow play in the freshwater resources of High Asia. This assessment will be crucial in helping to forecast the future availability and vulnerability of water resources.

Mountain ranges, river systems, and glaciers of High Asia. Credit: USAID

The project’s objectives, to determine how much water in the rivers of High Asia comes from seasonal snow melt and how much comes from glacier ice melt, will be met in collaboration with our Asian partners. The work will provide critical regional-scale information for planning downstream irrigation, hydropower generation, and general consumption.

Realistic estimates of the future availability, and vulnerability, of water resources in these regions are not possible until we better understand the current hydrologic regime.

The Region

  • Encompasses five mountain ranges and watersheds totaling roughly 3 million square kilometers.
  • Includes the Himalaya, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Pamir and Tien Shan mountain ranges.
  • Holds the headwaters of five major rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Amu Darya and Syr Darya.

The countries of Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan depend on water from these mountain ranges and river basins.

The Project

CU-Boulder scientists, in collaboration with our Asian partners, will carry out training, fieldwork and research. The project also relies heavily on satellite data processing. Among our goals is establishing a model for regional data sharing.

CHARIS is supported by a cooperative agreement between USAID and the University of Colorado titled “Establishing a Collaborative Effort to Assess the Role of Glaciers and Seasonal Snow Cover in the Hydrology of the Mountains of High Asia.”