Complexities of Water Governance
Rise and Fall of Groundwater for Urban Use
Kathmandu, the administrative, economic, and cultural capital of Nepal, is undergoing rapid and radical demographic, social, and economic changes that directly impinge on water service demands and the regulation and planning of water resources. The current population of Kathmandu Valley is estimated to be approximately 1,200,000.1 The population density in Kathmandu ranges from an average of nine persons per square kilometer to 683 persons or even higher concentrations in the core urban area (the area within the surrounding Ring Road).2 Outside the core area, the density of population is relatively low. The area with the highest concentration of people is also the area with increasing numbers of hotels and industries, which all compete for water with domestic users. The current water infrastructure is inadequate to serve these increasing domestic and industrial demands. The resulting scarcity of water has made water management into one of the dominant themes pursued by both the intellectual and expert water elite and local water users. Increasingly, water users in both the domestic and commercial sectors have resorted to the use of groundwater, and the use of groundwater extraction technologies has become more and more important both in facilitating and in defining people's access to water.
This chapter examines the complexity surrounding regulation of domestic water supply. To understand and identify the key problems and issues that exist within the water supply system, the chapter first provides background information on water scarcity in Kathmandu and on Nepal's efforts in planned development of urban water resources. The chapter then continues with a description of water sources. It identifies different categories of water users and analyzes the diverse rules and practices of users to access and use water. It shows that new technologies for water extraction increasingly mediate and shape water use