| Dec 21, 2023
Case Studie- NEWAHs new sensors
NEWAH’s new sensors - A technology revolutionizing monitoring efforts and assuring the sustainability of remote water projects in Nepal now and in the future- by Bibek Prashad Dahal
The availability of water in the communities after the completion of the project has caused great joy among the villagers. For some time, the communities used water happily and with confidence that they would have adequate access of drinking water in days to come.
However, the happiness of one group residing at the upper part of the water system didn’t last for long. The water points located at the upper portions of the communities encountered a major problem: They were getting less water day by day. This circumstance raised lots of questions among the villagers. How could this have happened? Why did it happen? Was it because the source had decreased its capacities? Or was the reason some kind of problem in the water supply line?
It took the villagers a while to fully understand the problem. To their dismay, the inconvenient truth was this: The issue was different; it was neither a problem with the source nor one with the water supply line. Instead, there were two other reasons.
The first: an excessive use of water at the lower belt of the community. The water users residing here used more water than expected to irrigate their vegetable yard by connecting pipes directly to the water points.
The second: An immense waste of water at the lower belt of the community. The negligence of water users for the necessity of maintenance of water points caused them to let the water flow uselessly for days and nights. It was found that users didn’t even change the taps, which weren’t working anymore and which were therefore lagging, allowing a constant useless water flow day in day out.
In that scenario finally, it was no wonder that the water didn’t reach users residing at the upper belt unless there was enough water in the reservoir.
This is the story of a Nepalese village named Okhargaira. Located in Rural Municipality of Tinpatan in ward 06 (previously Balajor VDC ward-06), Okhargaira is a very remote village from Sindhuli district. Here, eight years ago, a Drinking Water and Sanitation Project was implemented by Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH) with generous support from ‘charity: water’. This given case of unequal water distribution due to water mismanagement in some parts of the village had added additional challenges to NEWAH on its way to the effective implementation of sustainable management and equitable benefit sharing of given resources.
980 people from 140 household are profiting from the drinking water facilities, collecting water from 6 different water sources which is later being distributed to 72 water points. Mismanagement however makes this difficult.
In order to resolve these challenges NEWAH has introduced different technologies, among them ‘Hello Monitoring’. The Hello Monitoring technique is used by NEWAH to get information about the projects through telephone calls with the members of the users’ committee as well as the water users. This is crucial, espescially after the project has been completed and NEWAH has left the project sites.
The issue of uneven distribution of water resources was reported by Uttam Lamichhane, the chairperson of Okhargaira’s Water and Sanitation Users Committee (WSUC). According to him the issue was observed within the water points of the upper belt of the community, as the wastage of water by the users from the lower belt didn’t allow water to store in the reservoir. As a result some of the households from the upper belt were totally deprived of even getting a single drop. The issue was so prominent that it was about to destroy the social harmony within the communities and the users from the upper belt started scolding the WSUC for not managing the water system effectively.
NEWAH’s reaction was as follows. Staff from NEWAH’s provincial office in Sindhuli installed a sensor, which is a remote distance monitoring technology, within 57 of the 72 water points. A sensor is a small machine which consists of a GSM SIM, batteries and a turbine. It provides information on the quantity of water flowing through a tap as well as disturbances in water flow. The main objective of establishing sensors is to monitor the functionality and working capacity of a distant water system from a reference point (in NEWAH’s case from its headquarter).
Through this technique NEWAH can immediately get all the necessary information on the functionality of a particular water system, which can be used for an immediate maintenance reaction if needed. The sensor monitoring technique has proven to be one of NEWAH’s most effective measures for checking the regular functionality and sustainability of projects.
According to Kumar Pulami Magar every water point now gets an equal amount of water and the users from the lower belt have stopped irrigating the vegetable yards by connecting the pipes to the water points directly. They have also stopped their unusual practice of leaving the water taps open and instead immediately call Mr. Magar to replace and renovate nonfunctional taps on time.
Uttam Lamichhane, the chairperson of the community’s WSUC reported that the connection of sensors to the water system has put an end to the complaints of users. The sensor provides reliable information on the functionality and non-functionality of the system, which helps to provide the appropriate treatment on time. He also added, that in his eyes, in national context the sensor technology has now proven to be one of the most effective measures for the sustainability of remote water systems, which is a milestone in rural development in Nepal.