Stories from the Field: Nepal

Phortse and Lobuche (Nepal) — Communities in Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park (Mt. Everest region) are taking the lead in improving access to and availability of potable water. Our previous work, led by Dr. Kirsten Nicholson (Ball State University), has shown that local water contamination results primarily from human activities, such as poor sanitation, water handling, and climate change. However, effective water solutions and resource management must balance conflicting interests between the local economy, governance, location (topography, altitude, and remoteness), infrastructure, environment, culture, and traditions. These intricate connections compromise communities’ ability to manage water resources and affect the >1.4 billion downstream Himalayan water resources users.

In May of 2022, we began this GWB project working with the village of Phortse to assess their water resources. Our project combines physical geological research, consisting of an Electrical Resistivity (ERT) survey, water sampling and rainfall data, with community outreach and engagement (including interviews and survey data – both of residents and tourists).

Our 2022 team consisted of 5 faculty members and 6 students from Kathmandu University and Ball State University. We are working with the NGO Action for Nepal and the local National Parks office. During our time in Phortse, we managed to successfully run 6 ERT survey lines, analyzed both the local drinking water and the local bottled water, installed a data logger in the main river, conducted more than 30 interviews (ranging from everyday citizens to community leaders), and surveyed tourists’ opinions on environmental issues. Our data has been and/or will be shared with the community. The results will help the community develop a long-term water management framework and policies to ensure equitable access to potable water and mitigate damage from natural disasters, such as climate change and earthquakes.

*Due to the pandemic, this team was on a two-year hiatus. They were eager to finally travel to Nepal and hit the field again.*