This research project aims to help the City of Kathmandu rebuild its water utility and improve the service to its people. This study builds upon an earlier study that tackles how water had been supplied and used in Kathmandu from 2001 to 2014. Even though the population has doubled, the water supply to the residents remained the same. By using large storage tanks, buying from private water vendors and digging private wells, the people of Kathmandu were able to meet their water needs. However, these coping mechanisms cost every household US$18 annually on the average. Interestingly, despite this situation, the people reported through a survey conducted that they were largely satisfied with the water supply situation.
This paradox is an interesting policy conundrum. What lies behind the apparent public acceptance of high coping costs? This study presents the hypothesis that much of the emotional valence of the policy lies uncaptured by economic proxies or public action – that is to say that the perception of water is not tied up to the coping cost; put alternatively, although coping costs are very high (as high as the monthly bills of developed countries) such costs have a relatively low role in the narrative of water.
The study will present the narratives of water from three policy groups – residents, government officials and water vendors using the Q methodology. Its key focus are the emotional qualities of the coping costs (frustration, anger, fear) that are not captured by this economic measurement. How do these translate into narratives of water? And most importantly, what impact does this have on the public attitude towards the large-scale water reform that are here to come.