Rural Water Supply Systems in Nepal: Factors Affecting Equitable Access to Water


  • Manita Raut
  • Alok Rajouria International Water Management Institute



access, equitable, pandemic, Dailekh, Sarlahi, GESI, Community, water, WASH, Functionality, SRA


Issues of gender and social inclusion in the governance mechanism of rural water supply systems have been a major concern of users, policymakers, and practitioners in Nepal. Amid changing livelihood context due to migration, transition to a federal governance structure, and social hierarchies, communities face persistent inequities in access to safe water, while its supply continues to diminish. In this context, increasing competition for water has in many instances resulted in the fulfillment of water needs of some groups, while compromising the water needs of others.  In such instances, it is usually the poor and marginalized groups who are disproportionately affected. Moreover, understanding the factors affecting equitable access to an adequate supply of water now particularly after Nepal’s entry into the new federal governance system, and COVID-19 pandemic is paramount.

Based on the learnings of 3-year research project that seeks to understand the role of gender and power dynamics in the functionality of community water systems, this paper will provide insights on collective water management practices. A mix of qualitative inquiries such as focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, social and institutional mapping, and observation were utilized to collect the data. This paper will present evidence from the project sites highlighting how community institutions are managing the supply and distribution of water particularly by discussing factors influencing equitable water supply.


Aberman, al., 2015. Gender and Power in Nyanza Jenya: Analytical Approaches and Study Results, s.l.: Slideshare.
Agrawal, B., 2001. Participatory Exclusions, Community Forestry, and Gender: an Analysis for South Asia and a Conceptual Framework.. World Development, pp. 1623-1648.
Bonsor, H. et al., 2017. The Need for a Standard Approach to Assessing the Functionality of Rural Community Water Supply. Hydrogeology Journal.
Budhathoki, C. B., 2019 . Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Situation in Nepal: A Review. Journal of Health Promotion, pp. 65-76.
Day, S. J., 2009. Community-Based Water Resources Management, s.l.: Practical Action Publishing.
Department of Water Supply and Sewerage Management, 2021. Introduction. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 3 July 2021].
Dhakal, K., Silwal, S. & Khanal , G., 2010. Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Vulnerability in Hills of Nepal, Kathmandu: Ministry of Environment/ Government of Nepal.
DWSSM, 2019. Water and Sanitation Status Report. Kathmandu: Department of Water Supply and Sewerage Management, s.l.: Government of Nepal.
Goodrich, C. G. et al., 2017. Gender and Social Inclusion in Local Water Planning: Lessons from Water Use Master Plan Practices in Nepal, Kathmandu: ICIMOD.
Government of Nepal, 1992. Water Resources Act 1992 , Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Government of Nepal, 1998. Drinking Water Regulation 1998, Kathmandu: GON.
Government of Nepal, 2011. Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan, Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Government of Nepal, 2014. National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2014 - DWSSM, Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Government of Nepal, 2015. Constitution of Nepal, Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Government of Nepal, 2020. The Fifteenth Plan (Fiscal Year 2019/20 – 2023/24), s.l.: Government of Nepal.
Guras Rural Municipality, 2019. Water User Master Plan, s.l.: Gurash Rural Municipality.
Haapala, J. et al., 2016. Facilitating bricolage through more organic institutional designs? The case of water users’ associations in rural Nepal. International Journal of Commons, 10(2), p. 1172–1201.
INHURED International, 2018. Promoting Gender Equality and Social Inclusion: Nepal’s Commitments and Obligations, Kathmandu: INHURED International.
International Water Management Institute, 2020. Household Survey in the Selected Municipalities of Sarlahi and Dailekh Districts, K: s.n.
Kumar, C., 2005. Revisiting 'community' in Community-Based Natural Resource Management. Community Development Journal, 40(3), pp. 275-285.
Leder, S., Clement, F. & Karki, E., 2017. Reframing women’s empowerment in water security programmes in Western Nepal. Gender and Development, 25(2), pp. 235-251.
Leder, S., Gitta, S. & Das, D., 2019. Water Security and Inclusive Water Governance in the Himalayas. Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy, 5(1), pp. 128-158.
Magar, S. T., 2005. Water Resources in Nepal: Institutional Analysis Based on Legal Provisions. . Occasional Papers in Sociology and Anthropology, pp. 194-227.
March, C., Smyth, I. & Mukhopadhyay, 1999. A guide to Gender Analysis Frameworks, s.l.: Oxfam.
Mehta, L. & Claudia, R., 2020. Covid-19 Reveals and Further Increases Inequalities in Water and Sanitation. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 6 Apil 2020].
Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation, 2015. Nepal Water Supply Sanitation and Hygiene Sector Development Plan (2016-2030), Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Nepal Ministry of Urban Development, (2015. National Urban Development Strategy 2015, Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.
Nightingale, A. J., 2011. Bounding difference: Intersectionality and the material production of gender, caste, class and environment in Nepal. Geoforum , 42(2), pp. 153-162.
Nightingale, A. J., 2019. Commoning for inclusion? Political communities, commons, exclusion, property and socio natural becomings. Intrenational Journal of the Commons, Volume 19, p. 16–35.
Peña, H., 2011. Social Equity and Integrated Water Resource Management, s.l.: Global Water Commission Technical Committee.
Sadoff, C. & Smith, M., 2020. relifweb. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 2020 June 11].
Sanitation and Water for All, 2020. Strategic Framework 2020-2030, s.l.: SWA.
Sarwar, M. B. & Mason, N., 2017. How to reduce inequalities in access to WASH , s.l.: ODI, Water Aid.
Shrestha, G. & Clement, F., 2019. Unravelling gendered practices in the public water sector in Nepal. Water Policy, 21 (5), p. 1017–1033.
Singha, S., Hamalc, M. & Prakashd, A., 2020. Perform or Wither: Role of Water Users’ Associations. Water Policy , Volume 22, p. 90–106.
Singh, S., Shrestha, K., Hamal, M. & Prakash, A., 2020. Perform or wither: role of water users' associations in municipalities of Nepal. Water Policy, 22 (S1), p. 90–106..
Suhardiman, D. & Raut, M., 2021. Gendered Institutional Dynamics (Re)shaping Women’s Roles in Water User Associations in Nepal. Under Preparation.
Sultana, F., 2009. Community and Participation in Water Resources Management: Gendering and nNaturing Development Debates from Bangladesh. Royal Geographical Society , p. 346–363 .
Udas, B. P., 2014. Gendered Participation in Water Management in Nepal, s.l.: Wageningen University.
Udas, B. P. & Zwarteveen, M. Z., 2010. Can water professionals meet gender goals? A case study of the Department of Irrigation in Nepal. Gender and Development, 18(1), p. 87 — 97.
UNICEF, 2020. COVID-19 Latest Information. [Online]
Available at:
UNICEF, 2020. COVID-19 response: Considerations for Children and Adults with Disabilities. s.l.:s.n.
United Nations, 2020. Why WASH Matters?, s.l.: UN.
Uprety, S. & Lamichhane, B., 2017. Local Governance Act 2074 (2017) Key Highlights, s.l.: HERD.
Water and Energy Commission Secretriat, 2011. Water Resource of Nepal in the Context of Climate Change, Kathmandu: Goverment of Nepal.
WaterAid, 2020. Wash Financing in Nkepal 2020/21. [Online]
Available at: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/viewer.html?
[Accessed 22 June 2021].
WaterAid, 2022. WASH Financing in Nepal, Kathmandu: WaterAid.
WHO, 2020. Water Sanitation Hygiene. [Online]
Available at:




How to Cite

“Rural Water Supply Systems in Nepal: Factors Affecting Equitable Access to Water” (2023) New Angle: Nepal journal of social science and public policy, 8(1), pp. 1–17. doi:10.53037/na.v8i1.65.