Highlights from the Nepal MUS Network events, Kathmandu, 10-11 April 2017

More and more Multiple-use water systems (MUS) are implemented in Nepal, both within the WASH sector and the irrigation sector. These approaches improve on systems designed by communities by providing broader technology choice and other support for long-term sustainability. The experiences gained confirm the multiple benefits for communities and the high benefit cost ratio of MUS investments. Moreover, Nepal’s Water Use Master Plan (WUMP) methodology for resource assessment and participatory planning, as embedded in government’s local planning processes,  appears an effective tool to identify MUS options. The main challenge is the further institutionalization of MUS approaches within development programs of government and private sectors.

This emerged from two events of the Nepal MUS network in Kathmandu. On 10 April a MUS Review meeting was held. A Special Session on MUS was planned in 7th International Seminar organized by Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems Promotion Trust  on 11 April, 2017. Both sessions aimed at taking stock of ongoing activities and at planning the network’s next steps. The Network was launched in February 2016 during the international MUS conference in Kathmandu, co-organized by IDE Nepal, the Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems Promotion Trust, IWMI, the global MUS Group and the government of Nepal (see video of the conference at  https://youtu.be/4gWlQGdbyd8).

MUS Review meeting 10 April 2017

On 10 April, IDE Nepal, which coordinates the Nepal MUS network, hosted a Review Meeting to take stock of MUS activities since the international MUS conference in February 2016. This event brought 35 participants, including Mr. Basudev Lohani, DDG Department of Irrigation, together. It was supported by the Anukulan – BRACED DFID project.

Participants MUS Review Meeting 10 April 2017. Picture: Bimala Rai Colavito

The following presentations were discussed (all available at: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B6DtcfNwKKOST0FKS0tZS2dVc3c?usp=sharing )

  • Renewable World. Solar Water Lifting Technology and MUS for Energy-Poor Communities. Experiences and ppp financing
  • IDE Nepal. Addressing Local Water Conflicts through Multiple Use Water Systems; a learning from the Community Based Adaptive Learning in Management of Conflicts and Natural Resources Programme at Lumle, Kaski, Nepal
  • Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Western Nepal Phase II (supported by Finland). ‘Think MUS’. A survey about project staff’s perceptions about MUS at government, project and community level.
  • Rural Village Water Resource Management Project Far West (supported by Finland). Experiences of the implementation of MUS and Water Use Management Plan  
  • Integrated Water Resource Management Programme WARM-P (supported by Helvetas, Switzerland). Experiences of the implementation of MUS and Water Use Management Plan.
  • IWMI Nepal: sustainability and resilience assessment of MUS (2015); MUS and women’s empowerment (2015-17); institutionalizing MUS in Nepal
  • IWMI South Africa: update of the project ‘Operationalizing community-driven MUS in South Africa, supported by African Development Bank
  • Global MUS Group (coordinator) Possible forms of collaboration between Nepal MUS Network and Global MUS Group.

MUS session 7th International FMIST Seminar 11 April 2017

On 11-12 April, the Farmer Managed Irrigation Systems Promotion Trust held its 7th international seminar ‘Irrigation in local adaptation and resilience’.

Picture: participants of the 7th International Seminar of FMIST.

One session, chaired by Mr. Som Nath Paudel, focused entirely on MUS with the following presentations/papers.   

  • Dr. Barbara van Koppen. Upscaling MUS at Global Levels.
  • Dr. Corey O’hara, Dr. Luke Colavito, Dr. Madan Pariyar, Mr. Rabindra Karki. Economic Impact of the Multiple Use Water System Approach in Far West Nepal
  • Dr. Floriane Clement & Ms. Farah Ahmed. Multiple Perceptions on Multiple-use Water Systems (MUS). A Reflection on Potential and Constraints for Institutionalising MUS in Nepal
  • Dr. Sanna-Leena Rautanen. Local Financing for Functionality Sustainability and Service Level Improvement – An Opportunity for MUS?

Nepal MUS Network’s concluding deliberations at FMIST Seminar 11 April 2017. Picture: Bimala Rai Colavito

Highlights of the presentations and discussions 

  • MUS approaches improve on systems designed by communities by providing broader modern technology choice and other support. When communities invest in infrastructure, they seek to meet multiple uses by using and re-using multiple sources, mainly through multi-purpose infrastructure as the rule and single-use designs as the exceptions. These widespread self-initiated and self-reliant MUS initiatives by communities need to be better recognized and documented. The public sector needs to ‘think MUS’ and systematically document that MUS happens anyhow: systems designed for a single use are in reality used for non-planned uses as well, even at very low service levels.  
  • The creation of a fund that is directly accessible for communities will trigger innovative and creative leaders to mobilize these local assets and required support for more sustainable water supplies, health and wealth.
  • The implementation of MUS continues to expand in Nepal, both within the WASH sector and within the irrigation sector, and is followed with interest by the Nepalese government, in particular the Department of Irrigation and the Department of Population and Environment. The latter’s National and Local Action Plans for Adaptation provide new opportunities for MUS.
  • The multiple benefits of MUS for communities are consistently confirmed, not only qualitatively but also through rigorous impact evaluation, for example the impact evaluation of IDE’s Market Access for Water Technologies for Women project (MUS and value chains). This found that MUS households earn USD413 more than control households. Similarly, the higher benefit cost ratio of investments in MUS compared to single-use systems is also consistently found.
  • Nepal’s national Water Use Management Plan consists of 17 transparent steps to assess water resources, existing multiple uses (drinking, domestic, poultry, other livestock, irrigation of many crops, fisheries like trout farming, hydropower, water mill, etc) and socio-economic conditions; to identify potential MUS projects at different service levels in a participatory manner; and to choose and implement a particular project, all in collaboration with the Village Development Committee. While the WUMP originally focused on the development of water for domestic uses, the holistic planning process in collaboration with communities and decentralized government structures fully fits MUS approaches, and provides important new opportunities for MUS.
  • It is vital to address intra-community and intra-household equity and conflict resolution issues, also for sustainability. Some projects already practice affirmative action to effectively reach the unserved and the most marginalized. Reaching women is also important because of massive male outmigration. This leaves the women behind who traditionally lack secure access to land, water technology, and access to village decision-making.
  • A growing problem is the drying out of the water source (spring, stream). Water in the catchment areas of water systems needs to be recharged. Recharge and overall watershed management aspect needs to be more integral part of MUS thinking – the emphasis cannot be on “USE” only.
  • Growing competition for water resources renders equity considerations even more important. Formal registration as the only consideration risks excluding the marginalized. On the other hand, when water resources are sufficient, households’ increasing wish for yard connections are opportunities for MUS.  
  • While some participants thought that the technical design of MUS was more complicated, others thought it was similar to the single-use systems. Quantities of water used per household tend to differ in MUS; therefore, it may be needed to link water fees to the quantity used. The same applies to the capital expenditure itself: in many water schemes the same contribution is expected from all, but not all may benefit in the same way.
  • Linkages with markets, as in IDE’s collection centres, are crucial as incentive for more productive water uses. 
  • The most important next step for MUS in Nepal is the further institutionalization of MUS in government structures and the private sector. MUS is still perceived as a donor-driven concept instead of improvements on communities’ designs that also ensure sustainability and self-reliance. Some government departments, including the Department of Irrigation, the Department of Population and Environment and the Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (in its guidelines for block grants) support MUS approaches. However, the single-use headings of budgets at local level in the siloed set up of the public and donor sectors still discourage a choice for MUS.  
  • As the MUS approach is anchored in people’s practices and needs, the key question is how to ensure that funding and other development support is genuinely put in people’s own hands, both for new MUS or repair of dilapidated schemes (‘retrofit MUS’). Rapid response and mobilization of own resources or (soft) loans for self-reliance are key. This requires the (further) piloting of innovative and transparent forms of organization, rules and procedures (e.g. competitive, output-based financing) and capacity building.
  • Last but not least, far-reaching changes are currently underway in Nepal with the upcoming first local government elections since 2001, and with the ongoing replacement of the constitution and overhaul of the government structures into further decentralized ‘Gaupalikas’ (rural municipalities in which the former Village Development Committees become wards; the districts disappear) and ‘Nagarpalikas’ (urban municipalities). This further decentralization is fertile ground for MUS.

The MUS network in Nepal and website

  • During the various deliberations on 10 and 11 April, the consensus emerged to keep the Nepal MUS Network informal as a start, and rely on – rotating - own time and resources of the different members as inputs. Government officials can be effectively invited and reached in this way. A name will be proposed (it could be, for example, Bahumukhi Pani (Prayog) Pranali). As first activity, the Nepal MUS Network will host a workshop to exchange information on MUS design and construction technologies. The email list that Luke Colavito used for the invitation to the MUS Review meeting will be used and expanded.
  • IDE Nepal volunteered to host a new MUS Group website for publicity of the Network and ongoing MUS activities. For this, every organization is requested to send a one-page summary of MUS activities, with relevant links, to Saroj Shakya at sshakya@ideglobal.org. The global MUS Group will support as requested through its website.
  • A Facebook has been established at  Facebook @NepalMUSnetwork for wider and Nepali speaking communities. More members need to be assigned as Admin, Editor and Contributors. .