One Water Source, Many Uses

“We had given up on this stretch of land. It lay there dry and bare. But now, as you can see, it is green and fertile. The new irrigation project has made all the difference. This year I planted and sold a lot of potatoes here. Our entire neighborhood has transformed because of the new water project.”

Dukmaya Tamang, Simle, Jaleswori

Generally, we run two types of water projects – drinking water and irrigation – that are separate from each other. In 2018, after learning about a new technology, we tried combining both projects into one.

We are constantly reevaluating and adapting our methodology to be the most effective we can be. We do this in part by learning from the best practices of other organizations. We visited a Multiple Use of Water (MUS) project site run by International Development Enterprise (IDE) Nepal in late 2017, which a friend of ours suggested could be a suitable technology for our projects. This visit taught us that one water project or source could easily serve multiple purposes through small modifications and minimal extra cost. We then modified what was going to be a typical irrigation project in Simle village into a locally appropriate and feasible MUS model. We finished this project in mid-2018 and are glad to hear of the success stories from the village.

Left: Our typical drinking water system. Right: Typical Irrigation Project

Dukmaya Tamang’s home is one of the 27 houses that benefitted from the new MUS project in Simle. Since the project, people are now using water in three different ways. First, it is diverted into crop fields through hand-dug canals. Second, it is used as drinking water for families via taps built next to their homes. And finally, the excess water from the household taps is being used to maintain plastic ponds near the house that irrigate kitchen gardens.

On the left: Dukmaya shows us her plastic pond. Right: Dukmaya selling potatoes to her neighbor

Dukmaya’s backyard used to remain fallow for most of the year since there was not enough water to grow anything outside of the rainy season. After building a plastic pond and a tap next to her home, she has maintained an excellent kitchen garden where she now grows a variety of vegetables for her family’s consumption. She recently expanded her kitchen garden to grow more potatoes. Due to the availability of water and the techniques our agriculture technicians taught her, she was able to grow enough potatoes to feed her family and also earn extra income.

Kumari Tamang stands in front of the newly-built tap that is just next to her house.

Since this project was originally requested by the community for irrigation, all 27 households are now using the water to irrigate their crop fields. Twelve of the 27 households are also using the project for drinking water, while 15 households are using plastic ponds to collect water for their kitchen gardens. Dukmaya’s neighbor Kumari Tamang (in photo above) is using the water in all three ways. For the 12 households, this project has helped with their acute drinking water shortage.

Structure of the MUS scheme

Local community members contributed to this project by donating their labor voluntarily. They dug the pipelines, crushed stones to make gravel, and held multiple meetings to manage the construction work. Now they have formed a water user committee, and collect a monthly savings fee of NPRs 20. They also assigned a caretaker who maintains various parts of the system. The community holds regular meetings every three months to collect the savings as well as resolve various issues facing the water system. Every household gives the system caretaker a fixed amount of produce as compensation annually.

Our Agriculture Technician Thamsari Rai teaching farmers how to use a plastic pond.

With the availability of water throughout the year, many Simle residents have now begun commercial vegetable farming. As part of our agriculture program, we also helped form a farmer’s group in Simle in 2017. Members have been reporting increased income since installing the MUS system.

Lak Kumar Rai shows us his potato plants that he started growing after the guarantee of irrigation.
Another farmer Bal Kumar Rai with his huge cabbage farm – possible only after the availability of water for his kitchen garden.
Chhatra Kumar Tamang with his plastic pond.

Since this was a new technology, we have encountered a few challenges. We can only build it where there is a large enough water source that can sustain both household water consumption and farming. While the plastic ponds are not very large, they could still pose a threat to small children who could accidentally fall in. In some instances, community members also reported mosquito breeding during the hot summer season. We now insist that each household with a plastic pond build a solid fence around it to protect kids. To prevent mosquito breeding, we have suggested that people keep the water moving and churning in their plastic ponds.


Due to the many benefits that communities receive from MUS, we have now expanded this model to our newer water projects. Currently, we are running two more MUS projects that will be finished in June of 2019. We have slightly modified the design to adjust for local needs, but the basic principle remains the same.

Community members digging pipeline for a new irrigation project in Bung. This will also be a MUS system, where houses with a drinking water shortage and willingness to have a plastic pond will get both of them in addition to irrigating their crop field.

We thank IDE Nepal for hosting our visit as well as our friend Michael Cook for connecting us with IDE Nepal.

To stay updated on this program and other similar work in Nepal, follow our Facebook and Instagram pages. If you’d like to support these important programs in addition to our other work in Nepal, please consider a donation today.

The Long Road


Tilicho Lake (4900m) in Manang, Nepal. Autumn in Nepal is spectacular – the perfect time to begin our new projects!

After months of rain, the monsoon has finally yielded to beautiful fall weather in Nepal, and we are ready to start another busy year of construction. Over the past year, we have made significant progress on our community recovery plan by helping our local partner communities recover and rebuild after the disastrous earthquakes of 2015.

Binda Rai from Sishu School in Maheswori is happy to study in a new school.

Since last fall, we have finished rebuilding 8 schools damaged by the earthquakes using Light Gauge Steel (LGS) and Mild Steel (MS) Truss technologies – both earthquake-resistant structures.

The 8 schools rebuilt in 2016/17 on

More than 500 students from these 8 schools recently moved into 40 bright and spacious new earthquake safe-classrooms afters spending the last two years attending school in temporary classrooms made of bamboo and roofing tin.

In the video below, you can hear from parents, teachers, and students who talk about how these new schools have helped them recover from the devastation of the earthquakes.

Following the earthquakes, our school construction work increased by double since most of the schools in the region were destroyed or deemed unsafe to use. Although community members were excited to have their children study in safe schools again, they also expressed sadness over how many trees had to be cut down to build the new schools. After listening to the communities’ concerns, together we decided to plant three trees for every one we cut down for timber. Students, teachers, and other community members are proud of this initiative and many people participate when we plant the trees.

In addition to the schools we rebuilt, we also completed 1 irrigation project that benefits 60 households, and 6 drinking water projects that now provide 127 families with access to safe drinking water within ten minutes of their homes.

We used to have acute water shortages here. It was so difficult to get water for the household. We had to go to a stream which was on a steep slope. In monsoon, it was very slippery, full of leeches and the water was also dirty. Now, after this project, it has been so much easier. Especially for me, in my old age, this tap next to my house has been a blessing.

83 year old Rinji Sherpa from Beuma shared her thoughts with us after we completed the drinking project in her community.

Rinji Sherpa in Beuma is very happy to have this tap stand near her home.


Similar to previous years, community members voluntarily contributed a significant amount of labor and materials to these projects. Communities in our project area contributed a total of 14,793 days of labor in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. When valued at local rates, this is equivalent to $110,401.57 USD! This represents 23% of our total project budget for the whole year, making our community partners dZi’s largest single donor group.

Community members volunteering for the construction of the Janakalyan Primary School.

We are currently preparing the final paperwork for our upcoming projects. We just finished our annual audit and are making Public Audit Banner for all our construction projects. In 2017/18, we will finish rebuilding 10 schools; construct 3 drinking water systems and 1 irrigation project; launch our smokeless cook stove campaign by helping 1,100 families build Improved Cook Stoves (ICS) in their homes; and add 720 new farmers to our ongoing agriculture program. We just finished celebrating the big festivals of Dashain, and Tihar- the festival of lights. We are so excited to kick off our construction season in the best of spirits.

If you would like to support our work in Nepal, specifically if you want to help us rebuild a school, there’s a matching grant opportunity provided by our friends from Mexicali Blues to raise money for Janajagriti School reconstruction. For every dollar that you donate, Mexicali Blues will be matching you dollar for dollar making your support go twice as far. Visit in our website.

Keep up with our journey through our Facebook and Instagram updates!



Open Plastic Free

After we became an Open Plastic Free zone, our students and teachers started making colorful garlands out of wrappers of chewing gum, chocolate, biscuit and instant noodles. We haven’t had to disturb the forest for the flowers. Our neighborhood has become much cleaner as we collect all the waste lying around. Recycling plastic has also reduced the cost for us to buy learning materials as teaching students this method in itself has become an interactive, fun and inspiring lesson.

– Sharmila Rai, Principal, Denam Primary School, Chheskam

A local community member piling up garlands made out of recycled plastic waste and wild rhododendron flowers in Chheskam.

The community of Chheskam has been formally declared as an Open Plastic Free(OPF) zone in 2017 May 2. The OPF drive was made successful by the initiation and leadership of the 7 community schools within its area. Chheskam had already added a feather in its cap when it became the first village in the country to be an Eco-San Village with 100% of households owning an ‘eco-san’ toilet that collects and recycles urine.

In the beginning of this OPF drive, our local NGO partner Nava Yug Ekata Bikas Samittee (NYBS) with support from local VDC office had conducted a series of awareness raising and orientation programs in all 7 local schools.  This program helped raise awareness about the importance of managing plastic waste and helped the student club understand about how plastic harms the environment and health. The student groups agreed to take the lead in the OPF drive.

Students from Chheskam High School taking part in a rally to raise awareness about OPF in their neighborhood.

NYBS also conducted a one week training program on collecting and reusing plastic waste for 22 interested women from various parts of Chheskam. The trainer was a local woman and member of NYBS, Maya Devi Kulung, who had learned to make different household items like baskets, mats, and boxes out of plastic waste that she found around her home and neighborhood. All the women learned how to make such creative and useful items from plastic.

Plastic upcyling training in Chheskam
Participants of the one-week plastic upcycling training in Chheskam

On the day of the declaration ceremony, a lot of the trainees and other neighbors who had also learned the craft brought their upcycled plastic items for demonstration. They had made various items out of the plastic waste that they collected. Meera Nachhiring from Mamerku won an award for the best creation.

She says “I am happy to have won and recognized for my skill. But what I am happier about is that all the items on display were sold. I am the happiest to see that we have been successful in minimizing so much of the plastic waste.” She further shared that she will continue to follow the principle of making “money out of waste” (fohor baata mohor) that she learned in the training, and is committed to minimizing and recycling her plastic waste.

Various items made out of plastic wrapper for demonstration in sell during the OPF declaration ceremony.
Local women show the various items they made out of recycled plastic.
A student tries out a new style of hat.

Earlier in Chheskam, as is the trend in many places of Nepal, various wildflowers like rhododendron were used excessively to make garlands to greet guests and for various other programs. The principal of the local Denam School, Sharmila Rai, shares, “After the OPF drive started in our village, our students and teachers are making colorful garland out of wrappers of chewing gum, chocolate, biscuit and noodles. We haven’t had to disturb the forest for the flowers. And the neighborhood has become much cleaner as we collect all the waste lying around. This reuse of plastic has also lessened the cost for us to buy learning materials as teaching students this method in itself has become an interactive, fun and inspiring session.

Various guests of the ceremony were greeted by wrappers made out of recycled plastic.

Although plastic has made life in village easier,it has also brought with it serious hazard to the environment. Plastic waste has already started showing adverse effects in human health, air, soil and water. Even in our working areas which is very remote, we can now see plastics thrown around everywhere. Many community members opt to burn these plastic as their management which obviously is even more harmful.

In our working area, the community of Gudel is the leader in OPF. They had successfully run the OPF campaign in 2012 and declared themselves OPF zone. This was a key inspirational moment for Chheskam. As their community got more and more swamped by all the plastic waste, finally NYBS took the leadership to initiate becoming an OPF zone too.

Now as part of the OPF movement, local schools have become the leader in management of the plastic as well as keeping the community on toes. Every household has now made a bamboo waste collection bin. Similarly there are collection bins on trails, public places, school, the local health post and other office premises. Although NYBS initially started this conversation about being open plastic free, it got support from two other local organizations. The OPF program was also supported by Majestic Himalayan Trekkers-a trekking company run by local of Chheskam, and Mahakulung Poverty Alleviation Agriculture Cooperative- a locally formed cooperative.

Bamboo collection bins like this have been setup in every house and in all public places of Chheskam
OPF declaration program in Chheskam High School
Students checking out a vase made out of plastic.
Students check out various items made out of plastic.

Water Means the World to Nepal’s Remote Communities.

Nepal has some of the most plentiful water resources on the planet, with the watersheds flowing south from the massive Himalayan chain supporting far over a billion people. Ironically, many settlements on Nepal’s remote hillsides suffer greatly for lack of clean drinking water sources. As Nepal’s population has grown, people have migrated and settled in more remote and dryer locations.


Villages in mountainous side of Nepal are often perched high above in ridges

The lack of a clean water source can have a profound impact upon the health and prosperity of a community. Hours are spent daily by women and children fetching water, basic hygiene practices such as hand washing laundry becomes difficult or impossible, and drinking from stagnant or dirty water sources greatly increases incidence of water-borne diseases.

For these reasons, we frequently receive requests from our community partners to construct gravity-fed water systems that bring clean water downhill from clean spring sources – sometimes many miles away. The engineering for these projects is simple in theory, but can be quite complex in practice. dZi provide technical engineering and financial support, while community members contribute large amounts of local labor for the construction and long-term maintenance of the projects.

Over the past year, we completed four new drinking water systems that have brought clean water to over 100 households, and over 500 people, for the first time. This current year, we have six more projects in the pipeline, with construction set to begin as soon as the monsoon rains end.

When we found 15 years old Nahemiya Rai from Fataksi village washing vegetables at a brand new water tap, we asked her if the water project had helped her in any way. This Grade 9 student told us that her life has been much easier after the drinking water system was completed in her village. Last year, before the system was installed, she had to spend hours each day fetching water from a distant spring. Livestock, birds, and other animals also drank water from the same open source. She was repulsed by how dirty the water was – but her family had no other choice.

Nahemiya Rai washing vegetables in one of the new taps built in her village.

Nahemiya recalls how her 3 year old baby sister had fallen ill with diarrhea. She was also often late for school after fetching water for the family in the mornings. Just getting to school for Nahemiya involved walking for ninety minutes each way, and she would often stop on the way to wash her hands and face because there wasn’t enough water at home. Washing her clothes – including her school uniforms – was also almost impossible.  “Now everything has changed, I can go to school on time, I can clean and wash myself whenever I like. And I can devote so much more time to my studies” she says.

Nahemiya and her family using the local tap in a number of ways.

We also met up with Rupdhani Rai — Nahemiya’s 87 year-old neighbor. She was busy cleaning her young grandson at the tap.  Rupdhani says that before this drinking water project, people in her village had to wake up very early in the morning to go fetch water from a spring which took at least a half hour to reach. If she arrived too late in the morning, after everyone else had already lined up, she would return home empty handed or, worse yet, be forced to fill her containers with silty and filthy water at the bottom of the puddle.  But now, with the new water project, things have changed for the better. Rupdhani says that in her old age, she has been able to use as much water as she wants along with her grandchildren. The new tap has empowered her, in her golden years, to provide for herself and her grandchildren — to stay clean without having to worry about making it to the water source early enough every morning.

Rupdhani with her grandson


The story repeats in the villages of  Hurlam and Thulu where we also completed projects last year. When we were visiting Hurlam to monitor the progress on the new water system, we met Mani Tamang on the banks of the Rog River – almost an hour’s walk away from her village. She was carrying a backpack in which she had brought some midday snacks and some dirty clothes – as finishing her washing took so long, that she needed to bring along her own food.

Mani Tamang with her backpack of food and dirty clothes

Mani then would make her way back to her home in Hurlam, a rigorous one hour uphill climb for her.

Before the water project, Mani had to make the rigorous one-hour climb up and down this steep trail just to fetch water.

Now Mani no longer has to go through this ordeal as a tap stand has been constructed right alongside her home.

Dhanmaya Tamang, a resident of Thulu, some 2 hours walk away from Hurlam also shared her thoughts on the new water system in her village. Although the water source in Thulu was only a twenty minute walk away from the village, it was extremely filthy and Dhanmaya often found dead bugs and animals in the water source.  Again, lacking any other options, the community was forced to use this obviously unsanitary water source.  It was bad enough that when guests from other villages came to visit, they would refrain from eating and drinking the local water for fear of getting sick themselves. Now, Dhanmaya has clean and healthy water piped from a protected spring at her doorstep.

To ensure that the water remains this way, Dhanmaya  and her community have formed a user group and each household pays a small amount monthly into a maintenance fund. They also get together to periodically clean the cement tanks and to maintain the system. With help from dZi, the community has also registered the water source and water system with the local Government – thus making the system part of the local infrastructure, and eligible for Government funds to maintain and repair. All dZi projects follow this model for sustainability.

Dhanamaya Tamang from Thulu fills her water vessel from the new tap.


An earlier photo from Thulu where 12 year old Radhika Tamang showed us where she fills her household water, along with close up of the source she showed us.
10 year old Manika Tamang from Thulu washes her school uniform in the new tap.
Mani and her neighbor crushing stones to make gravel required for the water tanks. This was part of their voluntary labor contribution for the project.
We make sure to involve the community in each process of the project. Here, our local NGO partner member is explaining budget details through a public audit banner in Hurlam.

We hope you’ve appreciated the stories of how something as simple as water can make such a tremendous difference in people’s lives. To learn even more about our drinking water projects, please also read our webstory “Bringing Home the Mountain Water” about the Nimchola Drinking Water Project that we constructed in 2013.

If you would like to support drinking water projects, or any of the other myriad ways in which we help Nepal’s most remote communities achieve a lasting change –  please visit





A small measure goes a long way!

shivatar DW
Girls do their Saturday washing in the public tap in Sotang (photo taken before the earthquake).

Sotang is the chief trade and commercial hub for the areas where we work in the northeastern valleys of Solukhumbu district. The weekly Friday market alone draws over 5,000 people from the neighboring villages including from Gudel, Chheskam and Bung. The market itself is held in the main center of Sotang called Shivatar (Fustel in the original Nachhiring Rai languague).

In 2013, our local NGO partner in Sotang realized that there was a dire need to build a public toilet and drinking water system in the market area if they were to maintain their Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. They sent us a proposal, and we supported the construction of a 4-room public toilet and a public tap stand adjacent to the Friday market spot.

During the weekend, the toilet is primarily used by market goers. On other days, the local school makes use of it. The school and the market management committee jointly clean and maintains the toilet now.

public toilet in sotang
The Public Toilet just after the construction was finished in December 2013.

The public tap stand has been providing free and clean drinking water to the market goers and community members. Local residents close to the market center use it for drinking, cleaning and washing.

Sotang was heavily affected by the recent earthquake, and one of the most impacted communities in the entire district. There were dry landslides in many places of Sotang during the second quake on May 12, which were followed by many landslides once the monsoon rains saturated the already-weakened soils. Many houses were destroyed, and the public tap stand in the Shivatar market also fell victim to this.

shivatar WSP damaged (2)
The public tap stand was almost swept away by landslide triggered by continuous rainfall.

The landslide exposed all the buried pipelines and also fractured the land where the main reserve tank was situated. The water supply and the toilet are fed by the same source located a few meters above the tapstand, and immediate repair was imperative. Otherwise both the toilets and taps would have been destroyed.

The local community was prompt to respond, and quickly raised 20,000 rupees ($200 USD) to repair the pipes and divert the landslide. This cost  was kept low because many community members pitched in and worked despite the heavy rains.

The repair work shown by arrows. The reserve tank is located at the top- now surrounded by protective fences.


Sibatar WSP repaired
Recent picture of the tap and the reserve tank after the repairing was complete.

“Not only did we repair the damage, we also cleaned the whole market area that day”, says Prithvi Bahadur Thapa the chair of the Market Management Committee.

Handing over projects and ensuring local buy-in is the most difficult aspect of our work. We are proud that the community in Sotang identified and solved this problem on their own, despite all of the other challenges caused by the earthquake. This demonstrates that they truly own and value the project and while the overall budget for this initiative was small – what it represents is invaluable.

Bringing home the mountain water

“Old as I am, I am still so active and agile, because I drink water directly from the mountains. Our new drinking water tap has its source right beneath mountains, so I thank dZi so much for making it possible for me to have clean fresh water right in my home.”


Nimchola is a small Sherpa village in Gudel VDC of Solukhumbu with just 24 households. It is one of the most remote settlements in the entire district – at least two, if not three, long days of walking from the nearest road. Nimchola is tucked onto a steep slope and surrounded by dense forests that run all the way up to the Makalu Barun National Park.

dZi helped our local NGO partner in Gudel construct over 800 toilets in the entire village of Gudel – including Nimchola. This allowed Gudel to become the first ‘open defecation free’ community in the entire district – a tremendous accomplishment for an area recognized as being one of the most remote and under developed.

After the Toilet Project, the community of Nimchola requested a drinking water scheme as they had dire need of drinking water. Local residents had been forced to walk for up to an hour and a half to gather water from often-dirty sources. One of the local residents related to us that “his daughters wept as they were sent to fetch water because it was so far, and their bodies would ache while carrying heavy loads of water.” In Nimchola, like many small villages in Nepal, the men primarily migrate away in search of temporary work. Here, most of the men work as porters and guides on treks in the Everest region. Accordingly, it was the women, children and young girls who were burdened with difficult household chores including fetching water.

The village of Nimchola
The village of Nimchola

Also, many households living in downstream were forced to consume polluted water as the people upstream would wash clothes, utensils and until sometimes ago defecate in the water source. This problem of water pollution led to many conflicts, and created schisms within the community. During dry months when the streams dried up, people had to depend upon water from stagnant wells (kuwa) which are dirty, and full of germs.

Because water was so scarce, people hardly used the water for any other purpose besides cooking and drinking. Bathing, use in toilets, or in vegetables was unthinkable. Without proper access to water – toilets are nearly impossible to maintain and keep clean.

Communities as small as Nimchola are nearly always overlooked by Government or NGO sources on account of their remoteness and small size. But this is exactly why their request for drinking water appealed to us at dZi. Our unique approach to development where we devise projects by collaborating with the community to match their needs has made seemingly unfeasible projects like this possible throughout our years of working in Nepal.

The Village of Nimchola is right beneath the Himalayan Range
The Village of Nimchola is right beneath the Himalayan Range

When dZi approved of this project in 2013, the community was more than willing to share their part of labor contribution. Of the total project cost, the community contributed 33% with their labor which is worth  approximately  $8,700. This ended up being a total of 1725 days of labor contributed by the community – most of which involved the hard labor of transporting supplies and burying drinking water pipe – a tremendous feat for a community of only 24 houses.

Given that the community members of such villages are typically very busy with farm and household work from dusk till dawn, this contribution shows the immense willingness of people to make the project a success. As the chairperson of the construction committee Sange Sherpa shared, “Because dZi provided supplies and hardware that we could not afford, our people are only too happy to contribute labor.”

Each house contributed about 70 days of labor
Each house contributed about 70 days of labor

Our high engineering standards required that the water pipeline be buried deep in the ground to avoid damage by livestock or landslides. This required an amazing amount of work, which the community expressed time and time again that they were happy to give. Communities like Nimchola may be cash-poor, but they have ample motivation, resilience and strength.

Now every house has a tap with water that flows 24/7
Now every house has a tap with water that flows 24/7

In our project impact evaluation, 70% of the community members reported a dramatic increase in their daily water usage after this project. Specifically, women reported that water accessibility has been very beneficial to schoolchildren who can now bathe regularly and wash their clothes – whereas earlier they were forced to attend school in dirty attire.


Now that the water is available regularly at each household, people have started to raise cattle near their homes, grow vegetables in kitchen gardens and to use it in their toilets. Mothers reported that their kids who earlier spent all their time fetching water now has time to study in the free time.


To ensure the long-term sustainability of the project, everyone in Nimchola has contributed to a trust fund where each household donates Rs. 500 per month for maintenance and repair. They are also in the process of registering the water source with the Government thus ensuring full water rights, and access to Government funds to maintain the system well into the future.


Update as of July 2015

The water user’s group here have successfully registered themselves with the Government of Nepal. This will mean that if any large damage occurs to the project, they will be eligible to get repair and reconstruction funds from the Government directly.