Lahan is the largest of the 17 municipalities in Siraha District of Nepal, where 35% of the population had access to an intermittent water supply and 65% had no access to a treated water supply.
The construction of lower-quality boreholes in a region with abundant groundwater has caused boreholes to fill up with ingressed fine sand which limits water supply in a region with abundant groundwater. Insufficient chlorination of water and failing meters hinder effective water distribution and quality control. With a growing population and urbanization, the need for effective water systems has no doubt become higher than ever. Although the Ministry and Health and Population has the responsibility of surveilling drinking water, there is no formal reporting system.
The Beacon Project, initiated in 2016 and implemented since 2017, has been a pivotal effort toward addressing water-related challenges faced by the poorest and most marginalized communities in southern Nepal. The project aligns with SDG 6, aiming to contribute to increased access to water and sanitation for all by 2030. It is led by the flexible but stable Co-Creation strategy which defines outcomes, and with critical partnerships that include WaterAid, Ministry of Water Supply, Anglian Water Alliance, Lahan Municipality, and Nepal Water Supply Corporation (NWSC). The Project Steering Committee, chaired by the mayor of Lahan, oversees project operations, with the joint secretary of the Ministry of Water Supply serving on the NWSC board. WaterAid provides Secretariat Support to the Project Steering Committee, while Anglian Water contributes technical expertise. With each partner being able to commit to their responsibility, the joint effort has made a difference.
Under the banner of water security, there have been eight new boreholes in Lahan, with four funded by the Beacon Project. Additionally, six boreholes underwent rehabilitation, and plans are in place for the construction of two more boreholes. To deliver safe water, three incline chlorine dosing stations were created, water quality sampling is now regularly conducted at standard tapping points, and a number of Electromagnetic Flowmeters have been installed. Drone survey for GIS mapping has helped, as the lack of data at any given aspect of water resource management was a major reason for slow changes, but with the prioritization of monitoring and quality control systems, the way ahead seems clearer.
In a workshop on Water Utility Management in Nepal, one of the notable outcomes of the Beacon Project was brought to light. As emphasized in the presentation by Andy Smith, Head of Smart Water at Anglian Water, the percentage of Non-Revenue Water – treated water that never reaches the customer due to leakages – which has decreased from 45% in 2016 to 36% in 2023, with a target set to further decrease it to 20%. Water supply hours have doubled from 5 to 10 hours a day between 2016 and 2023. Lahan has transitioned to digital record-keeping, optimizing quality measurements, and enabling remote monitoring of water meter readings.
Something that the Beacon Project has shown is the positive difference successful collaborative efforts can make. With each partner delivering on their strategic strength in the project, less has to be cemented over – the foundation of the project itself has been resilient. As stated by WaterAid Nepal Country Director Tripti Rai, “The Beacon outcomes shine a light on how to safely measure water usage and its distribution in Nepal. One of the key goals of the project is to create ‘a legacy that grows’ from documenting and sharing the learning from the project.”