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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Emergency relief KnO 100648_Water Supply during emergencies (Printable PDF)
Water Access in Emergencies
Practical Action
The SPHERE project is a collaboration of a wide range of NGOs and humanitarian agencies that
has produced guidelines on the minimum standards for provisions for refugees. It recommends a
minimum water supply of 20L per person per day (SPHERE, 2004). This may not be possible in
the immediate response, and a stepped process may be necessary:
Table 1: Suggested step response in low-supply scenario.
Source: Reed & Reed, (2011) ‘How much water is needed in emergencies?’
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has produced a publication; A Guidance for Field Operations
on Water and Sanitation, which details many of these standards in an emergency context.
The most basic needs for water in an emergency are for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.
Often there is a trade-off between quantity and quality, and it is important to ensure that the
whole displaced population has access to sufficient water to achieve this without diluting the
quality of the supply too much. A brief guide to water requirements in emergencies is available
from WEDC here (Reed, B. and Reed, B. 2011), including a visualisation of the hierarchy of water
needs in the reconstruction process:
Figure 2: Hierarchy of water requirements.
Source: Reed & Reed, (2011) ‘How much water is needed in emergencies?’
In general there are four options for water supply in an emergency, with groundwater more likely
to be safe; a standard assumption is that all surface water is contaminated. Both are preferable to
tankering, which is expensive and difficult to organise; however, it may be necessary as an initial
step. Rainwater is safe if it is available, but should only feature high in a plan if weather patterns
in the area are well understood (UNHCR, 2007).
Water Sources in an Emergency
Figure 3: Water Sources in an Emergency
Illustration: Martin Bounds