September 11, 2019

In the coming months, Ball State University faculty and students will help bring clean water to the thirsty mountain villages of Nepal.

A team led by Kirsten Nicholson and Klaus Neumann, geological sciences professors in the College of Science and Humanities, will use a $100,000 grant from Geoscientists Without Borders, an international organization that funds environmentally-related projects. The team will help several communities high in the Himalayas near Mount Everest locate and place water filtration systems in the best place to access water.

Nicholson and her team have regularly returned to Mount Everest over the last decade to research into how extensively human waste left by climbers is contaminating glaciers, which supplies water to the villages. The team last visited the nation in May.

“The issue is clean water,” she said. “It’s fundamentally important to have clean drinking water. The fact that we are able to help facilitate that, it’s critical to communities.”

Nicholson will lead a team of Ball State faculty and students to Nepal to hold meetings with community leaders in October or November.

She said the three-tiered project will help the communities minimize their long-term vulnerability to climate change and earthquakes. The communities themselves will be responsible for the building and management of their water filtration and storage facilities.

To achieve its goals, the project team will:

  • characterize the community aquifers
  • quantify seasonal recharge and discharge
  • assess locations of locally built filtration systems
  • map the geology of the basins, including structural geology, rock types, and basin fill
  • help develop long-term strategies for water management and help mitigate the long-term effects of climate change
  • minimize potential earthquake risk


Nicholson said all of these factors are interrelated and the help and support of the communities, the National Park Service and the nongovernmental organization Action for Nepal, make this project feasible within the budget and the timeframe.


In addition to helping provide communities with sustainable, long-term access to potable water, the project will train Ball State and Nepali students in geological and geophysical field methods and data analyses.


Nicholson said the students will also learn to assess, analyze, discuss, and solve environmental issues from many angles in some of the highest altitude settlements in the world.


“Ball State and Nepali students will be mentored by, and work with, international scientists and experts in a multitude of fields, and they will liaise with government and nongovernmental organizations,” she said. “The students will gain the tools to better understand the complexity of multiple issues and the international network to draw upon in order to solve complex environmental problems.”