There is No Water Coming Out of the Tap. An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Water Resources in the Jhikhu Khola Catchment, Nepal
Water resources in Nepal are vulnerable to over consumption and degradation. Agricultural intensification has led to high applications of fertiliser and pesticides, that degrades local water quality through elevated concentrations of nutrients, while population pressures have increased water demand leading to river-bed drying and exacerbated sanitation and hygiene issues. These issues are explored through a case study analysis of the Jhikhu Khola catchment in the Middle Hills region of Nepal, which exemplifies the intersection of intensified agriculture, population, and migration. To meet increasing demands, groundwater wells in the region have been developed haphazardly. The conjunctive (surface water groundwater or rural urban) and unregulated use observed in the Jhikhu Khola highlights the lack of effective water management. Water resources are often approached from a narrow perspective that limits the connection between technical data and the everyday issues that water users face. The societal hydrological nexus within the Jhikhu Khola catchment illustrates the disparities between rural and urban areas and the contamination issues they face. In this setting there are clear asymmetries between the degradation of upstream and downstream water resources. To conceptually frame these management deficiencies, a common pool resource lens was utilised, as water is central to many people lives but there is a continued lack of formal water rules. To effectively integrate the complex issues that water users face, a mixed methodology was employed. Water quality was quantified by measuring the heavy metals, suspended sediments, nitrogen concentrations, as well as pathogenic indicators: E. coli and total coliforms. Additionally, semi-structured interviews and key informant interviews were conducted with water users and experts, respectively. The key findings of the study indicate that every site was contaminated with total coliforms and E. coli. Lower riparian and Hill region water users face acute water scarcity because of upstream appropriation and a lack of groundwater infrastructure. The development of groundwater sources has reduced the value of surface water, leading to degradation. Finally, the significant variations in the use of water and the lack of social capital between water users presents a considerable barrier to cooperative water management. For sustainable and equitable access to water resources, there needs to be effective water management practices developed to prevent further water degradation in the Middle Hills region as water use changes in response to population pressures and changing land use.
Advisor: Mager, Sarah; Hill, Douglas
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: School of Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Water quality Nepal; Water management Nepal; Common pool resources; Surface water Nepal; Groundwater Nepal; Jhikhu Khola Catchment Nepal; Interdisciplinary research
Research Type: Thesis