The goal of CHARIS is to determine how much water in the rivers of High Asia (Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan) comes from seasonal snow melt and how much comes from glacier ice melt. The question is a pressing one because annual snowfall is a renewing resource, while glaciers are essentially a nonrenewable resource since they can only reform over many thousands of years.
This study, being undertaken in collaboration with our Asian partners will provide critical regional-scale information for planning downstream irrigation, hydro-power 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* within these mountain ranges.
— *Hydrologic regime -The distribution over time of water in a watershed, among precipitation, evaporation, soil moisture, groundwater storage, surface storage, and runoff. Definition from http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/watershed_tool/glossary.html