Written by MIS Advisor Chhatra Chaudhary & WASH Advisor Surya Thapa.
With the encouraging accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals in terms of water and sanitation, Nepal is committed to achieving global Sustainable Development Goals. In the national policy setting, such as Agenda 2030 and Sector Development Plan (SDP) 2016-2030, priority is given to quality, functionality and sustainability, with a shifting focus from building new schemes to repair/rehabilitation/reconstruction. Alongside attaining to the remaining unreached part of the population, major repair or rehabilitation of deteriorating schemes is required as well as due allocation of funds for Operation & Maintenance – currently largely neglected.
Local governments are responsible for planning, financing, monitoring, and implementing water schemes within the municipality. They have sufficient budget funds available, and there are funding mechanisms at the provincial and federal levels to support schemes on-demand basis. However, they often struggle to support Water Users and Sanitation Committees (WUSCs) in operating water systems because they lack the necessary functionality data. They do not have a mechanism through which the required data can be collected and response planned to the schemes in need. Support and assistance are needed to establish a functional institutional structure with competent personnel at the municipal level.
Sustainable WASH for All, SUSWA is a project co-financed by the government of Nepal and government of Finland with delegated financing from the EU. The project is being implemented in 42 municipalities of Karnali Province and these municipalities are the main implementers of SUSWA and contribute to the project cost.
While working in the geographically challenging and hard-to-reach municipalities of Karnali, SUSWA aims to reconsider the approach to functionality in order to address the root causes while strengthening governance for gender equality and social inclusion and sustainable sanitation and hygiene.
In this context, the idea of using water sensors to support municipalities in collecting water system functionality data was launched! This would allow the municipalities to monitor the water system functionality remotely and plan for the appropriate technical and/or financial support required in the water systems. These sensors use ultrasonic technology to measure the water level in a tank and communicate over the local GSM network. To communicate over the local GSM network, it uses a global/universal SIM card. According to the predefined set interval, it automatically sends the information on the level of the water in the installed tank and displays live data on an interactive dashboard in units of volume and percentage (%). The dashboard is a web-based computer application which is used to visualize the data sent by the sensors.
With the support of charity:water, an international NGO, piloting could begin! In the 2nd week of March 2023, 35 sensors (one per Reservoir Tanks, RVT) were installed in 7 water schemes of Naumule Rural Municipality, Dailekh. The installed sensors are now sending the data to the dashboard.
The dashboard is publicly available to everyone and can be accessed using this URL:
The dashboard provides information on how many tanks are being monitored, where the tanks are located (in OpenStreetMap), the tank capacity, the percentage of water level, the volume of water in the tank, and the water usage trend of a particular tank. In the dashboard, location points of a RVT in the Open Street map with different colors are set as per the hourly data.
- Green mark shows that the water is continuously flowing and there is no problem.
- Yellow mark shows that water is not available in the tank for 1-2 days and the system may have some issues.
- Red mark shows that water is not available in the tank for more than 3 days.
- Blue mark shows that the sensor is not communicating.
According to the marks seen on the dashboard, if there is an issue or the water usage trend is abnormal, the municipality, through the Service Support Center (SSC) will call the related User Committee or the caretaker for further investigation of the issue. After the investigation, if the solution is beyond the capacity of the WUSC, the SSC can plan for the appropriate support that can be of financial or technical or both.
The hourly water level or the usage trend of a particular tank can be viewed by selecting a particular tank from the list of the tanks.
SUSWA intends to establish efficient and transparent WASH governance at the municipal level that can ensure access to safe, sustainable, inclusive WASH services (SDG 6). The project is working in establishing a Service Support Center (SSC) at the municipal level to help the municipality and WUSCs in maintaining the water service delivery. The use of water level sensors and an interactive dashboard is an innovative solution that could significantly improve access to clean water in the Karnali province.
By providing SSCs with timely and accurate data, they can support WUSCs in operating and maintaining water systems, which will ultimately benefit the communities they serve. The pilot in Naumule Rural Municipality is a promising start, and it will be exciting to see how this technology can be scaled up to other project working areas and beyond – stay tuned for more updates!
Read a local news article on the sensor installation in Nepali: खानेपानी योजनाकाे अवस्था निरक्षण गर्न जिपिएस टेंक अलर्ट जडान – khullapress