Beyond the Finish Line: Inclusive and sustainable rural water supply services in Nepal 

Water for Women partners with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation to deliver Beyond the Finish Line: Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All to improve health, gender equality and social inclusion, and wellbeing of rural communities in Nepal, reaching over 155,000* people.

Read SNV's end of project brief

Nepal: Rural water services for all



Nepal’s 27 million people are largely reliant on agriculture although, increasingly, important sources of income are coming from remittances, tourism, and industry.  Nepal has a high risk and frequency of natural disasters, being situated in a tectonically active area, making it the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change.  In the past four years the country has faced a massive earthquake and two major floods.

Approximately one quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.  With the outmigration of men to cities and foreign countries, the demography is highly skewed and rural villages are populated predominantly by women, children, older people, and people with disabilities.

Access to basic water supply is 87.4%, however out of the 41,205 rural water supply schemes:

Only 26% are fully functional


45% require repair

29% need to be rehabilitated or require a new system.



Access to basic sanitation has reached 96%, and 53 out of 77 districts have been declared as Open Defecation Free.  However, the country suffered a major setback with the earthquake in 2015 resulting in significant destruction of infrastructure including water supply systems and toilets in over 30 districts (over 500,000 houses destroyed and some declared districts had almost no toilets standing).  In 2017, the terai floods in 31 districts also destroyed or damaged 190,000 houses.  This has led to a delay in the country reaching its national targets.

Overall, development outcomes in Nepal are improving at different rates for different groups and some marginalised groups face a double burden (e.g. low-caste women; women with disabilities).  These inequalities and disadvantages are well recognised and linked to both structural discrimination within society, institutions and the state and to vulnerabilities owing to poor economic conditions, life stage and condition, challenging geography, and exposure to climatic and natural disasters.

Nepal’s new constitution seeks to change this situation and creates a strong foundation for an inclusive society, ending all forms of discrimination, and aiming for equal outcomes for people from all origins, identities, and conditions.  For the WASH sector, it states water and sanitation as a human right, calling upon duty bearers to provide equal access to water and sanitation for all people, without discrimination. 


 “Through the Water for Women Fund, we have the opportunity of realising the commitment of the new constitution of Nepal for gender and socially inclusive development processes and outcomes and achieving the human right to water”

– Ms Nadira, Khawaja, SNV Nepal WASH Sector Leader 


The project aims to use the opportunity of decentralisation in Nepal to develop inclusive, sustainable and resilient water supply services and hygiene behaviour change communications in households, schools and health care facilities in two districts as a role model for inclusive WASH services in 2 provinces of 6.5 million people.

Dailekh District, Province 6 - representing gravity-fed water supply systems of the hills/mountains

Sarlahi District, Province 2 - representing groundwater-based systems of the terai

Thereby developing a model that can be applied to the whole country, while supporting national and sector learning and harmonisation in the process. 

Regional map of Nepal

Capacities will be built within local government, water supply operators, support service providers, and civil society/right holder groups for strengthened WASH sector systems that ensure gender and social inclusion in: transparent decision-making for planning and investments, sustained water supply services, post-construction support, and hygiene promotion.  Developing skills and confidence and promoting the leadership and voice of and choice for women, socially excluded groups, and people with disabilities will result in gender and social inclusion outcomes.


“The project aims to use the opportunity of decentralization in Nepal to develop inclusive, sustainable and resilient water supply services and hygiene behaviour change communicatons in households, schools and health care facilities in two districts as a role model for inclusive WASH services in 2 provinces of 6.5 million people.”



The overall goal of the project is to contribute to improved health, gender equality and social inclusion, and well-being of the rural communities in Nepal by supporting inclusive, sustainable, and resilient rural water supply services and hygiene promotion in the country’s decentralised context.

behavioral change communication diagram 

The project will achieve this through:

  1. “Improved capacity of local government to lead multi-stakeholder sector planning, monitoring and targeting of investments following the human rights principles using evidence-based, transparent, and gender and socially inclusive decision-making (Fund Outcome 1).

  2. Improved performance of rural water supply implementers (construction of schemes) and operators of waters supply services to provide gender and socially inclusive, resilient, and sustainable water supply services (Fund Outcome 1 and 2).  

  3. Strengthened post-construction support services, on technical, management, financial and social aspects for operators to deliver gender and socially inclusive, resilient, and sustainable water supply services (Fund Outcomes 1 and 2).   

  4. Improved capacity of local government to implement evidence-based inclusive and accessible hygiene SBCC around key behaviours such as hand-washing with soap (HWWS), MHM, cleanliness of toilets, safe water use and conservation at households, schools, and health facilities, and address social norms and attitudes (Fund Outcomes 2 and 3).           

  5. National learning and harmonisation by using project learnings to develop role models for gender and socially inclusive, resilient, and sustainable services and wider gender and socially inclusive outcomes (Fund Outcome 4).      

  6. Improved leadership, voice, and choice of women, people with disabilities, and people who are socially excluded in households, communities, and institutions by mainstreaming the “GESI lens” in all programme components and targeting tailored initiatives for people who may be disadvantaged (Fund Outcome 3). 

Expected benefits by 2022 include:

  • 40,000 additional people with access to basic water supply from improvements in existing services
  • 30 additional institutions (health facilities, schools) with access to basic water supply from improvements in existing services
  • 40,000 additional people practicing handwashing with soap at 2 critical moments
  • 10,000 additional students practicing hand washing with soap at 2 critical moments
  • 2,000 additional female students practising safe menstrual hygiene management at school
  • 500 additional people with disabilities with accessible WASH facilities at home.

Innovation & Impact


In 2021, this project was awarded an Innovation and Impact grant to further strengthen the use of new evidence, innovation and practice in sustainable and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and, in doing so, contribute to improved learning and practice globally.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant disruption to every facet of people’s lives in Nepal. Led by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, the Innovation and Impact project will unlock critical WASH contributions, providing evidence for delivering gender transformative WASH-related care and domestic work recognition and redistribution interventions as part of the COVID-19 recovery.


Learn more


 A water and WASH response is a COVID-19 response


In 2020, the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene was underscored as the globe grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from Australia's Partnerships for Recovery, our partners pivoted their projects and worked collaboratively to support countries in their COVID-19 responses and to embed COVID-19 preparedness into their WASH projects.


As an immediate response, SNV, initially installed handwashing facilities in 130 key locations (quarantine stations, Health Care Facilities (HCF) identified by the Nepalese Government in response to large numbers of workers returning to Nepal.


SNV and local partners; Everest Club in Dailekh and Rural Women Upliftment Association in Sarlahi worked in in one Rural Municipality (RM) in each district to improve access to health services, benefitting an estimated 46,000 people in the two target areas. SNV also demonstrated appropriate WASH infrastructure including improved water, sanitation, handwashing and menstrual hygiene management facilities in four high-priority HCFs in the two RMs. In particular, SNV built capacity to prepare health staff to improve their knowledge on infection prevention protocols and capacity to monitor hygiene and other infection prevention practices. Further, two RM-QAWCs provided oversight on improved hygiene and other infection prevention practices across all HCFs in their rural municipality for better access to improved WASH facilities during this crisis.


Australia continues to support COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery activities across the Indo-Pacific region to secure our region's health, wellbeing and stability in these challenging times.

An unprecedented crisis requires a coordinated response. Through our water resources management and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, we are not only delivering safe, equitable and sustainable water and WASH, we are also building healthy, inclusive and resilient societies. We're supporting individuals, communities and countries to endure, and recover from, the COVID-19 crisis as well as to future extreme events and natural disasters. 

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institute for sustainable futures


*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.

Photo by SNV 

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