Water Quality Test Laboratory in Rural Area of Nepal

Integrated Water Resources Management Programme (IWRM) of Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation Nepal in collaboration with EAWAG Switzerland has been implementing water quality monitoring and identifying water safety strategy since January 2017. 
This initiative is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and a Catalyst grant from the REACH: Improving Water Security for the Poor. The project has special focus on microbial water quality monitoring and implementation of water safety plans in rural drinking water schemes in Dullu, Dailekh. A water quality laboratory including a simple solar powered incubator has been set up in the Nepa health post, Dullu-3, Dailekh. Purna Bahadur Khanal, Senior Health Worker, and Dev Kumari Khanal, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), were trained to carry out microbial water quality tests by membrane filtration method and to record water quality results in Akvo Flow,  a mobile based data monitoring platform. Microbial water quality from the four drinking water supply schemes around this area has been tested since July 2017 in the rural lab. For each scheme, there is a responsible local person trained to perform sanitary inspections and to collect water samples of key points; reservoir tank, tap stand and household. The trained persons are responsible to collect and bring the water samples to the Nepa health post laboratory in a monthly basis for further analysis.  Once the samples collected from the schemes are delivered to the lab, Mr Khanal and Ms. Khanal immediately start testing the samples. They keep record of the result in a register booklet as well as in the Akvo Flow forms on a tablet.  The results are then immediately uploaded to the cloud when internet is connected to the tablet. The results can then be monitored and checked by the professionals from the IWRM programme office in Surkhet or Kathmandu and EAWAG in Switzerland. 
While asking about his opinion about laboratory to Mr Khanal, he said, "many patients we found sick from diarrhea due to waterborne diseases. Without testing water quality, it was difficult to convince local people to drink safe water; at least, applying household water treatment methods. After having this laboratory, we have been testing the water quality of their schemes and we used to show the test results to the concerned people who came to the health post. Showing these water quality test results, it became easier to create awareness on water quality and people were more cautious for safe drinking water at their household". He added that this test is simple and they can easily handle the laboratory as well as use the Akvo Flow mobile register without any difficulties. Regarding regular operation of the laboratory after the project, he said that they wish to operate the lab in long run if the materials required for WQ testing, like compact dry plates, can be available easily.  
Moreover, it has been planned to discuss the results of regular water quality monitoring with the users of respective water schemes; conducting meetings in their own community and informing them how to proceed ahead to improve water safety at the scheme level as well as household level.