5.2.1. Safe water

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Water is vital for human survival, and providing a safe water supply is one of the priorities in disaster situations. Safe water is to be understood as water safe for human consumption in a quantity sufficient for people’s basic needs and of a quality such that the water represents no health risk. The main most urgent actions are:

  1. Corrective measures to improve water quality: Alternative sources of drinking water should be treated, in addition to cleaning and disinfecting the tanks that will be used to distribute water. The population should be informed about water treatment procedures, and efforts should be made to provide the elements needed to treat water at the household level (read more about this here). It is important to prioritize the populations at greatest risk, such as those in overcrowded temporary shelters where sanitary conditions may not be the best. Chapter 1 of Emergencies and disasters in drinking water supply and sewerage systems: guidelines for effective response discusses mitigation measures.
  2. Water monitoring and quality control: Procedures for constant evaluation of the quality of the water provided should be in place. Its physical, chemical and microbiological quality should be analyzed regularly, and its source, treatment, and distribution should be monitored to ensure that they meet the objectives and standards established. Consult the WHO publication on water quality monitoring, which is a practical guide to the design and implementation of freshwater quality studies and monitoring programs.
  3. Comunication with the population on hygienic measures and appropriate water management practices: In addition to instructions for water treatment and appropriate storage, informational campaigns should be used to promote a healthy water culture so that the population is quite clear on the relationship between water quality, good hygiene habits, and health. These campaigns should also promote the rational use of water provide a clear sense of the value of this resource.
  4. Coordination structure: The rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems and services as well as the provision of safe drinking water to the affected population are complex and require the active participation of many institutions and actors, each with different but responsibilities. These activities should be coordinated in the context of the EOC in the affected area.