Low-cost water storage ponds for smallholders


Seasonal water shortages in the HKH, coupled with excess water in the monsoon, is a critical issue in the agriculture sector. Thus, harvesting rainwater during the monsoon – by channelizing water into plastic storage ponds – is highly recommended so that rainwater collected during the monsoon can be used during dry periods or droughts.

The issue

A vulnerability assessment study carried out in three VDCs of Nepal’s Kavre District revealed that drought and water scarcity are severe problems faced by farmers. To address this issue, efficient, simple, affordable water-management practices needed to be implemented.

The solution

ICIMOD and the Center for Environment and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension, and Development (CEAPRED) have piloted simple and affordable solutions suitable for smallholders, especially given the socioeconomic changes in the mountains. Using the concept of ‘zero waste water’, farmers in Kavre were encouraged to dig small plastic ponds near their homestead for collecting waste-water runoff from household chores that could be used for irrigating a home garden or kitchen garden during the dry season or drought. The pond’s plastic reduces water seepage underground. Most farmers constructed a plastic pond of 7 ft x 4 ft x 75 cm depth, with a capacity for storing 2,000 litres of water. Likewise, larger community-managed plastic ponds (18 ft. x 24 ft. x 1 m depth) with a capacity of 16,000 litres  were also constructed to collect waste water from drinking-water taps and small streams, to help farmers adapt to environmental and other changes to the water sources. In areas with clayey soil, earthen ponds made by simply digging a hole of considerable size in the ground could also retain waste water, even without using plastic.

These different kinds of water-storage ponds help smallholder farmers grow crops throughout the year by improving the reliability of irrigation, particularly during dry periods. However, to avoid high amounts of water loss from evaporation, these ponds should be bordered by shade-providing trees.

Apart from ponds, drip irrigation and other traditional practices like mulching could also be combined for integrated water management in small-scale mountain farmlands suffering from water scarcity. The low-cost water-storage plastic ponds are an effective way to capture and store household waste water and overflow water. They are built using simple technologies, and even smallholder mountain farmers can afford them due to the low investment required. This ensures easy uptake of the technology by the practitioners, as well as by farmers, especially when they share the knowledge themselves.

Impact and uptake

The low-cost water-storage pond and community ponds first piloted in three VDCs of Kavre were further upscaled to four additional sites in Panchkhal Municipality of Kavre. Likewise, several water-smart technologies that use a combination of science and local knowledge with low investment and minimal external technical support were promoted in eastern Nepal. The Government of Nepal has further ensured the upscaling of low- cost water-smart technologies as resilient mountain solutions across 14 other districts in Nepal. Additionally, ICIMOD, with its partner organizations, is also planning to outscale the initiative in the near future to other regional member countries of the HKH.


Erica Udas, ICIMOD

Laxmi Dutt Bhatta, ICIMOD

Further reading/information

Agrawal, N.K., Bhatta, L. D. & Leikanger, I.C.P. (2017). Women-centric approach to enhance resilience. In S. Wymann von Dach, F. Bachmann

Alcántara-Ayala, S. Fuchs, M. Keiler, A. Mishra, & E. Sötz, (Eds.), Safer lives and livelihoods in mountains: Making the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction work for sustainable mountain development. (pp 46-47.). Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern.