|Water Manual for Refugee Situations (UNHCR, 1992, 160 p.)|
1. Safe water is essential to life and health. People can survive longer without food than without water. Thus the provision of water demands immediate attention from the start of a refugee emergency. The aim is to assure availability of enough water to allow sufficient distribution and to ensure that it is safe to drink. Adequate storage and backup systems for all aspects of water supply must be assured, since interruptions in the supply may be disastrous. To avoid contamination, all sources of water used by refugees must be separated from sanitation facilities and other sources of contamination. It is important, however, to bear in mind the fact that due to difficulties in predicting the life-span of a refugee camp, the most appropriate alternative will always be the one which adapts better to a cost-effective long term service.
2. Water availability will generally be the determining factor in organizing the supply of sufficient quantities of safe water. It may be necessary to make special arrangements for the identification and development of new sources, water extraction, storage and distribution. Measures will be required to protect the water from contamination and in some circumstances treatment will be needed to make it safe to drink. The safety of the water must be assured right through to consumption at home.
3. Water quality is always difficult to assess. Always assume that all water available during an emergency is contaminated, especially if available sources are surface water bodies (lakes, ponds, rivers, etc.). Immediate action must be taken to stop further pollution and to reduce contamination. If it is evident that available sources are inadequate (in terms of quality or quantity), arrangements must be made to find alternative sources and, if necessary, to import water to the site (by truck, barge, pipelines or any other relevant means). Where even the most basic needs for water cannot safely be met by the existing resources at the site or its surroundings, and when time is needed for further exploration and development of new sources, refugees should be moved to a more suitable location. Figure 1 shows some of the considerations in diagrammatic form.
4. Water services, sanitation and site planning are the subjects of separate manuals. Their objectives are, however, largely interdependent; this manual should be read in conjunction with the other two.