In Nepal, community-based management of water systems through local water user committees is very common. While the approach has been widely promoted in the past, the results are below expectations: Currently, around 75% of the water systems are not fully functional. Oxfam decided to tackle this problem and partnered with LeFil Consulting to develop innovative strategies aiming at finding more sustainable approaches.

Based on the finding that most malfunctions can be explained by the financial non-viability of water schemes, LeFil’s team decided to go to the root of this problem. After visiting dozens of water systems in the Hills districts and Terai region, and collecting quantitative and qualitative data on technical, social, financial and governance factors, LeFil built a financial model capturing revenue streams and expense items of individual water systems. Based on this analysis, the team identified the major levers that would lead to reduced costs and/or higher income over the long term. These solutions include:

  1. Outsourcing pipe laying to local professionals
  2. Ensuring that a sufficient share of the population has paid for a household water connection before the water system is constructed
  3. Introducing automated billing through mobile phone credit or pre-paid cards
  4. Centralising and outsourcing the management of financial accounts
  5. Outsourcing operations and maintenance to local professionals

These suggestions were discussed with relevant stakeholders, including representatives of the Gaunpalikas (rural municipalities), and relevant private-sector partners were identified.

Oxfam is currently planning a pilot to test these levers with the aim to develop, over the long term, a national multi-stakeholder coalition to implement them at scale. Potentially, these solutions may be rolled out to hundreds of water schemes across Nepal over the next few years.

For more information about LeFil’s collaboration with Oxfam in Nepal, please check out this report.