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.

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