Rural communities in the low-lying plains and lower hills of Nepal remain vulnerable to changes in watershed dynamics. A range of coping and adaptive strategies are being implemented to address technical and infrastructural needs relating to agriculture, ecosystem management and disaster prevention. However, to ensure the equity and equality of these measures in relation to water, effective governance mechanisms that link different water users (e.g. upstream and downstream) emerged as an important, yet contested, component. Conflict exists between local water users (both within and between villages in the same watershed), the resolution of which has been hampered by ineffective and inactive water user committees that lack proportional representation and the institutional capacity for sufficient responsiveness. The paper concludes with suggestions for reviving effective committees at the community scale, bearing in mind the need for institutional and organizational stability, equality and sustainability.