Manashree Newa | Before municipal water supply started in 1905 A.D., stone spouts were the major source of drinking water in Kathmandu.The beautifully carved stone spouts not only provide water but also hold a huge cultural significance. In 2008 UN-HABITAT wrote in their book Water Movements in Patan with Reference to Traditional Stone Spouts: “When one observes a hiti, it not only gives the picture of engineered water conduit, but lavishly designed religious masterpiece of architecture.” So, when we added the last two stories in our house, my father conceived this brilliant idea to beautify our terrace with an ornament handed down by our ancestors- a stone spout.
With people’s increasing interest in home décor, I suppose there are many houses in Kathmandu who have built stone spouts. Many restaurants and hotels also have beautifully built stone spouts; however, I believe the one in my house is quite unique. Not only does it entertain our guests, but it is also a rainwater harvesting system.
Water scarcity is a major problem in the place where I live. The municipal water supply is neither reliable nor sufficient. So, to fight this water crisis, we have to spend a large amount of money to buy water from water suppliers. There are times during the dry seasons, when we have to carry buckets to collect water from wells in nearby temples. We have to go to either our relatives’ or friends’ houses to get a shower. And our habits shift from opening the tap to pouring water from a jug. We study about sanitation and cleanliness; I even work in that sector. So, when I can’t implement what I preach, it is very frustrating for me. But, monsoon season is quite a relief. The water-scarcity stress washes off with every downpour, and there is a sigh of relief in my mother’s face.
We collect more than 400 Liters of water after every heavy shower. The terrace above is a catchment which covers an area of about 36 m2. A down pipe guides the water into the spout. A storage pond of 200 L capacity stores the water. Most of the time, there is a lot of surplus water, which we collect in drums and buckets. The water is mainly used for washing clothes and cleaning purposes. Apart from this, it is also used for flushing toilet and watering the plants. My mother says happily, “The water that was used for washing clothes and cleaning can now be used for cooking, drinking and bathing.”
A few years back, the rainwater was once collected in the main storage tank, first filtering it using bleaching powder and potash alum, and then purifying it using Euro Guard water purifier before drinking. But now, due to lack of the proper filtration systems, the rainwater is not sent to the main storage tank. So, we still have major water problems during the dry seasons. But, the rain comes to our rescue every now and then. With time, we are improving our systems. But one thing we guarantee is that, for us, every drop is precious, and every drop is valued. We have to fight the water scarcity, and harvesting rainwater is the best solution for us. I am very happy that there is a unique and creative way to fight the water problem in my house. I believe that if every Nepalese comes up with creative ideas, not only the problems of water scarcity can be solved, but also urban flooding can be prevented and our heritage saved.