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Top Bahadur Rayamajhi
Minister, Ministry of Local Development 


Traditional Water Sources

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Smart ways to deal with water woes Print E-mail
Posted by Administrator   
Friday, 27 January 2012
 By: Nistha Rayamajhi

For seven years, Suman Shakya struggled to deal with water scarcity at home, a story most Valley residents will relate to. But the tables have turned, and today, it has become his business among many to advocate feasible models of dealing with water scarcity. “Back then, I thought of investing in something which was durable and sustainable,” says Shakya, who earlier used to spend Rs 2,800 each month to purchase 24,000 liters of tanker-delivered water.

It was then that Shakya came across rainwater harvesting, an indigenous technology, as he looked for a pragmatic and cost-effective solution in the market. And the celebrity entrepreneur that he is, Shakya was inspired and stirred enough to set up a preliminary team within three months. The Kathmandu Valley itself is a great example. The ponds, open reservoirs and the ancient stone sprouts all are the results of rainwater harvesting. And even after hundreds of years, this indigenous technology works just fine. Our forefathers did the right thing but somewhere down the line, we forgot the technology which was lying in our backyard. “I have been a victim of lack of supply of proper drinking water at home and I really wanted to share the knowledge and idea that I had gained so that others could be water-independent, too,” says Shakya, who now does away with having to buy water.
After meeting Tylor McMahon, a Fulbright Scholar who had researched rainwater harvesting in Nepal with a background in environment economics, and journalist Shailee Basnet, SmartPaani, a product brand of One Planet Solution was born. The trials then began at Shakya’s home and were put to test by Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), which installs rainwater harvesting units and also runs a government accredited laboratory for environment monitoring and analysis. The tests to check whether the harvested water was safe for drinking also included physical, chemical and biological parameters. The results were positive. “I then pulled in the technical people who had been in the business of rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling for the past six years. With their collective experience and Tylor’s expertise, our idea was made possible.”
SmartPaani, Shakya’s brainchild, today serves over 400 clients and its technical team has installed more than 300 custom-designed rainwater harvesting systems in the dry capital since its inception in September 2011. Their rainwater harvesting system is also complemented with two other units – grey water recycling and bio-sand filtration.
Grey water is basically the wastewater that comes from kitchen, showers, from washing clothes and other sources. That wastewater can be used again for gardening, washing, showering or any cleaning purposes by filtering it through “reed bed,” which is a special kind of green plant filter. Reed bed can also be made into a nice garden. Shakya informs that it is a system which, if used in households or any institutions like hotels and restaurants, can actually save 33 percent of the water that is supplied.
Bio-sand filtration, on the other hand, is the system of filtering water by removing the iron, turbidity and bacteria. This system can treat all types of water from any source, especially underground water. “The water, after it goes through the process of bio-sand filtration, is hygienic and safe for drinking. The treatment system is completely bio-friendly and involves no chemicals. It is scientifically sound and can save 60 percent of water.”
On an average, installing a rainwater harvesting unit would cost around Rs 42,000 to Rs 45,000 for residential use and could incur Rs 200,000 for commercial and industrial use. In some cases, installing only the bio-sand filter in any water sources like tanks, for instance to clear away the water impurities, could do. The cost for installing the bio-sand filter is similar to that of the residential unit. However, the cost for installing grey water recycling system can rise up to Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 and is more suited to commercial and industrial level. “All systems, once installed, usually last up to ten years and could last longer with timely maintenance and gear replacement, if needed.”
The shortage of drinking water is a perpetual problem in the country and more so in the metropolitan Kathmandu. The municipal supply of water is never sufficient as many localities are only availed of one and a half hours supply of water once every eighth day.
According to Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), the Valley’s current water demand is about 320 million liters per day (MLD). “KUKL can only supply about 85 MLD during the dry season and 150 MLD during the wet season,” says Suresh Acharya, spokesperson at KUKL. In urban areas, an individual’s water need is 100 liters per day which has even been set as an objective by the Urban Water and Sanitation Policy.
According to KUKL, come March-April, there will just be 80.72 MLD made available daily in the Valley, which basically means on an average, during such dry months, Valley residents will have to survive with 23 liters of water per day per person. Water woes would thus reach a new high with demands towering higher than ever. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) also supports the idea of promoting rainwater harvesting and many seem unaware of the state subsidy on offer.
“Once the building is ready and the rainwater harvesting system installed, an application letter should be dropped at the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC) at KMC. The department then sends a technical team for a technical surveillance visit,” informs Rabin Man Shrestha, chief of Environment Management Division at KMC. “If the system has been installed, KMC provides the facility of returning 10% of the amount that one had to pay to get the building-permit.”
Some might argue that the initial capital required is too much for a large part of the society. But if one does the math, in the long run, it is an investment that could actually save one more and also fill up for the dry state supply, quality-unsure bottled water or expensive tanker supplies. And the exploitation of underground water, experts say, is already drying up the Valley’s aquifers and many sites have even reported as chemical pollutants. Thus, it is not a viable option and also increases health risks.
According to the data provided by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Ministry of Environment, Kathmandu Valley alone receives 1,600 millimeters of rain annually. “On an average, on a rooftop that has an area of 1,076 square feet, more than 160,000 liters of rain is available for collecting and using annually,” says Samriddhi Dhakal, Business Research Executive at One Planet Solution. Shakya points out that during the rainy season, there’s no problem of drinking water for seven months. But if the rainwater is put into use, people will be free from the burden of water shortages even during the dry months.
Moreover, he explains that as more built-up spaces sprout in the capital, the natural waterways are going to be disturbed. As more people get into concrete structures, the more rainwater that gets collected on the rooftops of those buildings will fall down the drains. “Even though people won’t make use of the rainwater, it shouldn’t be allowed to drain, as it’s a huge social crime. Due to sheer ignorance or out of need, many Nepalis tend to buy water even during rainy months. Like petrol, water crisis can hit us hard anytime. So why not prepare ourselves for that?”

Rainwater harvesting explained

Firstly, a pipe is installed on the rooftop to collect water. The first rainfall with impurities, which must not be harvested, is flushed out. This is done by opening the lid at the outlet of the pipe. The lid is then closed to collect the water. The pipe is connected to the reservoir, basically a tank where the rainwater is collected.

Rapid sand, which is a filter, is installed in the tank in order to filter away the impurities of the rainwater. A second pipe is fixed to the same tank to pass the collected rainwater into another big tank or a well. This is done to recharge the well. In the absence of wells, a soak pit is built where the collected rainwater is allowed to soak in the ground. A bio-sand filter is also installed in the well, tank or a reservoir in order to purify the water and make it drinkable. This process makes the debris stay above, as the water gets filtered. To use the water for drinking or any other purposes, it is pumped back through the well or the reservoir to a new tank. The rainwater can also be recharged into underground sources such as tube wells.

Grey water recycling explained

To begin with, a separate pipe is fixed to the outlet where the wastewater comes out. It can be through the bathroom and kitchen or any other source. The wastewater that gets collected through that pipe is allowed to pass through the reed bed. This filters the water gradually by removing oil or any kind of waste materials. The outcome then is clear water. But, for the water to be made drinkable, it has to pass through the bio-sand filter again to get rid of the impurities.

For details:
• SmartPaani – Call 5521906 or email at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit oneplanetsolution.com
• ENPHO – Call 4468641, 4493188 or email at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit enpho.org
• DUDBC, KMC – Call 4249190

Source: Republica, January 27, 2012
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