Department Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development

REACH: Establishing a Drinking Water Security Strategy for Rural Nepal

In rural Nepal, 92% of households[i] have access to an improved drinking water source. Yet assessments of microbial contamination in Mid-Western Nepal shows that 70 - 80% of taps are not delivering water that is safe for drinking. Achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.1 (SDG 6.1), to deliver “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all,” is especially challenging for remote rural settings facing multiple obstacles. These include unreliable supply chains for sampling materials, the high cost of laboratory equipment, and unreliable or non-existent access to electricity.

SANDEC’s Water Supply and Treatment (WS+T) Group is collaborating with the Safe Water Promotion and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation to improve access to safe drinking water in remote rural areas of Mid-Western Nepal.  Within HELVETAS’ Water Resource Management Program (WARM-P), this interdisciplinary research focuses on three general areas:

  • Understanding system vulnerabilities explaining microbial contamination
  • Developing solutions for effective water quality treatment and safe handling, and
  • Implementing a sustainable and robust monitoring system linked to a risk-based water safety strategy.

Eawag’s field studies have revealed inconsistent water quality across the piped schemes, high rates of recontamination of stored drinking water, and low perceived risk perception among water users. Spatial and temporal dynamics of water quality also revealed inadequate protection of spring sources supplying the system.

The project duration is 2017-2019, Its focus is to install solar-powered field laboratories across the WARM-P service region and to train local technicians to monitor and mitigate drinking water supplies. This project is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and a catalyst grant from the REACH: Water Security for the Poor programme.


[i] WHO/UNICEF JMP, Nepal: estimates on the use of water sources & sanitation facilities (1980 - 2015)

Project Timeline: 2017 - 2020

Project Status

An interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners is currently assessing the impact of the risk-based drinking water security intervention that was implemented in 2018-19 across five districts (Achham, Kalikot, Jajarkot, Dailekh and Surkhet), in terms of water quality, system functionality and user satisfaction.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

This project will be among the first to investigate how a risk-based framework can be adapted to drinking water supplies in mountainous areas, providing much needed guidance and lessons learned for other countries dominated by alpine terrain seeking viable strategies for achieving SDG Target 6.1.


Ambuehl, B.; Kunwar, B. M.; Schertenleib, A.; Marks, S. J.; Inauen, J. (2022) Can participation promote psychological ownership of a shared resource? An intervention study of community-based safe water infrastructure, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 81, 101818 (11 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2022.101818, Institutional Repository
Bänziger, C.; Schertenleib, A.; Kunwar, B. M.; Bhatta, M. R.; Marks, S. J. (2022) Assessing microbial water quality, users' perceptions and system functionality following a combined water safety intervention in rural Nepal, Frontiers in Water, 3, 750802 (14 pp.), doi:10.3389/frwa.2021.750802, Institutional Repository
Crider, Y. S.; Sainju, S.; Shrestha, R.; Clair-Caliot, G.; Schertenleib, A.; Kunwar, B. M.; Bhatta, M. R.; Marks, S. J.; Ray, I. (2022) Evaluation of system-level, passive chlorination in gravity-fed piped water systems in rural Nepal, Environmental Science and Technology, 56(19), 13985-13995, doi:10.1021/acs.est.2c03133, Institutional Repository
Ambuehl, B.; Tomberge, V. M. J.; Kunwar, B. M.; Schertenleib, A.; Marks, S. J.; Inauen, J. (2021) The role of psychological ownership in safe water management: a mixed-methods study in Nepal, Water, 13(5), 589 (18 pp.), doi:10.3390/w13050589, Institutional Repository
Daniel, D.; Diener, A.; van de Vossenberg, J.; Bhatta, M.; Marks, S. J. (2020) Assessing drinking water quality at the point of collection and within household storage containers in the hilly rural areas of Mid and Far-Western Nepal, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(7), 2172 (14 pp.), doi:10.3390/ijerph17072172, Institutional Repository
Marks, S.; Shrestha, R. (2020) Improving drinking water quality in rural communities in Mid-Western Nepal, In: O’Bannon, D. J. (Eds.), Women in water quality. Investigations by prominent female engineers, 47-59, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-17819-2_3, Institutional Repository
Daniel, D.; Diener, A.; Pande, S.; Jansen, S.; Marks, S.; Meierhofer, R.; Bhatta, M.; Rietveld, L. (2019) Understanding the effect of socio-economic characteristics and psychosocial factors on household water treatment practices in rural Nepal using Bayesian belief networks, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 222(5), 847-855, doi:10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.04.005, Institutional Repository