The current knowledge of the spatial variability of precipitation in High Mountain Asia is based on the remotely-sensed estimates (coarse spatial and temporal resolution) or data from sparsely-distributed rain gauges. However, as precipitation is strongly affected by topography in mountainous terrain, the spatially varying precipitation and the resulting water balances are currently poorly understood. To fill this gap in knowledge, we studied the spatial variation of the precipitation and its impact on water balance in a small headwater basin located in the foothills of the Himalaya, Nepal. We deployed ten rain gauges and climate stations, spanning the whole elevation range 700–4500 m above sea level (masl) for a period of four years. Our results show a quadratic polynomial relationship between annual precipitation and station elevation, which are used to produce annual precipitation maps. The performance of the elevation-based precipitation estimates is adequate in closing the water balance while the performances of average precipitation and Thiessen polygon method are poor and inconsistent in closing the water balance. We also demonstrate that precipitation estimates from one or two gauges at the lowest basin elevation substantially underestimate the water balance. However, the precipitation from one or two rain gauges at 2000–3000 masl provide a significantly better estimate of the water balance of a small headwater basin.
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