Water Operators Partnership supports Nepalese families to access clean water

Imagine only having access to water which has been contaminated by leaky pipes. On top of this, your access to water is limited to only four hours each week.  

For people living in Kathmandu this is a reality of life, and due to the water supplies being rotated throughout the city, each household does whatever they can to get as much water as possible. This includes attaching pumps to suck water from the mains which, in turn sucks muddy water into the mains through leaky pipes.  

The local water operators, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited – or KUKL – faced inadequate human resources, poor facilities, dilapidated infrastructure and insufficient water resources to be able to combat the poor supply to customers.  

To address this, in October 2020, AWP developed a partnership between four utilities and associations to support a Water Operators Partnership in Kathmandu, Nepal. The partners are:  

  • Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (Kathmandu Valley Treated Water Limited, KUKL) 
  • Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) 
  • Hunter Water Corporation  
  • and Logan Water. 

Water Operators’ Partnerships are peer-support partnerships between water and sanitation service providers. They work by harnessing the skills, knowledge and goodwill within a strong utility to build the capacity and improve the performance of another utility that needs assistance or guidance. 

Throughout the COVID-19 border restrictions, the partners met online to establish the Project Plan and initiate activities that would commence once travel could resume. In June 2022 the Australian partners were able to visit Nepal. 

Despite the setbacks of COVID-19, staff turnover and other challenges, KUKL is preparing to absorb newly created network and facility assets financed by the government, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 

In addition, the Melamchi Water Supply Project delivered tunnels to bring new water supplies from catchments outside the Kathmandu Valley. The Melamchi Water and Guheswori Wastewater Treatment Plants are now operating. 

In order to be able to deliver the full benefit of these significant public investments to their customers, KUKL needed to improve their systems for operating and maintaining their assets.  

Over the past seven years, KUKL staff have been extremely responsive and eager to grow their knowledge and capability. They have developed a robust asset management system for operating and maintaining pipe networks, treatment plants and tube wells. This will significantly improve KUKL’s ability to deliver better water supply and sanitation services to residents of Kathmandu as new water becomes available. The team are in the process of implementing changes to the organisation structure to ensure a consistent approach to asset management across all departments. With the help of the Australian utilities, they are also investigating ways to influence regulatory changes that will significantly reduce the cost of delivering services to their customers. 

Above and featured image: Australian and KUKL Partners inspect the new Melamchi Water and Guheswori Wastewater Treatment Plants in Kathmandu. Photos: Graeme Bartle-Smith

In his welcoming address to the partnership team in Kathmandu in October, CEO Mr Milan Shakya said that KUKL wants to be the best private public partnership in South Asia and, with the knowledge and skills gained during this project, he believes this can be achieved. 

From KUKL – Milan Shakya, seated, with (L to R) Ujjwal Shrestha, HWC Mechanical Engineering Manager Rowan Lonergan, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Ramesh KC, Dol Prasad Chapagain, Umesh Babu Marhatta, and Bijaya Timilsina, following his welcome address to the Partnership, October 2022. Photo: Graeme Bartle-Smith

New initiatives are being developed by KUKL. Young staff members have joined Australia’s Young Water Professionals program, where young engineers in KUKL are linked directly with young engineers in Australia to discuss and meet challenges they face in their professional career. Specific training for water treatment plant operators is being provided by JICA and a project to understand the causes of non-revenue water losses is being investigated. 

Over the next few years, KUKL will use their new knowledge and skills in asset management, business management and customer communication to work towards delivering permanent pressurised drinking water supplies to the residents of Kathmandu. 

Article by Graeme Bartle-Smith, Water Operators Partnership Project Manager
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