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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Emergency relief KnO 100648_Water Supply during emergencies (Printable PDF)
In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, displaced populations in emergency shelters will require
a safe and sufficient water supply. In some circumstances there may be no existing supplies
locally, and water will have to be brought in from other sources. Alternatively, there may be local
sources that need protecting to ensure they don’t become contaminated.
The provision of water in an emergency requires quick and simple solutions, and the extent to
which a People-Centred approach can be followed is limited by the immediate need for water
access. The concept of People-Centred Reconstruction (PCR) requires time to develop
responsibilities and skills amongst displaced communities; primary concerns should be focussed
on the provision of safe water, but methods can be adopted to encourage participation in the
assessment and securing of water sources. Practical Action’s Practitioner Tools on PCR offer
advice on how to integrate communities into processes.
The Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) at Loughborough University has
produced a comprehensive manual on the assessment of Emergency Water Sources, available for
free download. Additionally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has
produced a Field Guide for Water and Sanitation in Emergencies and an Emergency Handbook.
This technical brief draws on these external sources, and is intended as a summary of the key
stages in emergency water supply, and gives an overview of some of the appropriate solutions to
improve the process that are compatible with a PCR approach.
Immediate Actions
There are key actions that it may be necessary to undertake in the immediate aftermath of a
disaster, with regards to securing a safe water supply for the displaced population (Davis, J. and
Lambert, R. 2002):
Assess existing sources & identify new sources
Organise tankering
Protect sources
Provide distribution, transport & storage
Provide treatment
Promote hygiene
Monitor and evaluate
Practical Answers has a web-page with links to WEDC and WHO technical sheets on several
aspects of emergency action here. It may not be necessary to undertake all of the actions,
depending on the results of the preliminary assessment.
Assess existing sources & identify new sources
To plan how best to supply water to a displaced population, an initial assessment is required to
understand the following:
Requirements of displaced population
Condition of any existing water supplies
Priorities of whom?
How to plan for long-term solutions
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