As Nepal runs dry, communities tap water harvesting

When Sita Poddar wants some water, she walks from her home in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley to a neighbouring town 15 minutes away, where she waits at the public tap in the yard of a temple.

She is usually in line for an hour before she can fill three 20-litre cans with brown, murky water – if she gets any at all. The tap runs for only two hours every five days.

“Sometimes I return empty-handed, because water doesn’t come through the tap or it stops coming out even before my turn comes,” said Poddar who lives in Taumadhi, a densely populated town in Bhaktapur district, southeast of Kathmandu.

“Even in the monsoon, I am struggling to quench my thirst.”

But two kilometres away, the residents of the town of Liwali enjoy clean water year-round, thanks to a rooftop rainwater-harvesting plant built in a disused earthquake camp.

For the past four years, Liwali residents have been collecting rainwater through a system of pipes connected to the zinc sheet roofs of shacks built as temporary housing after two huge earthquakes shook Nepal in 2015, explained resident Kamala Sitikhu.

The water is stored in a 106,000-litre underground tank, filtered and dispensed through a set of taps, and evenly shared among nearly 100 households, each of whom gets 40 litres every other day, she said.