Water & Sanitation for Emergency Shelters

Immediately after a disaster, with a population housed primarily in emergency shelter, there are some essential initial steps in infrastructure provision:

• Assess immediate population needs and available supply.
• Protect upstream water supplies and wells; treat all surface water as polluted.
• Pump supplies to storage tanks, to be used as a basis for a more developed distribution system.
• Provide basic collection, storage and treatment facilities for protected sources.
• Prevent indiscriminate defecation through rapid provision of facilities.
• Provide safe disposal of excreta and refuse, controlling rodents and pests.
• Integrate hygiene promotion within community.
• Consider foundations for longer-term infrastructure and ensure their implementation will not be impeded in the future; in particular, ensure continued safety of local water resources which may be scarce.

Therefore, key priorities in this context are the ability to implement solutions quickly to address immediate water shortages, and to prevent initial contamination or propagation of contaminated sources. The infrastructure may be used by large volumes of people, and must therefore be able to cope with significant amounts of waste without causing unnecessary hazards.

Practical Action Publishing provide a comprehensive guide to 'Engineering in Emergencies', available here. Additionally, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has produced a field manual on 'Excreta Disposal in Emergencies', available here.

The following links give details on some of the water & sanitation technologies available:


Rainwater Harvesting during Reconstruction

Overview of RWH technologies and how they can be considered in the reconstruction process.

Water Supply during Emergencies

Overview of options for water supply in an emergency context, with relation to people-centred reconstruction principles.

Water Treatment during Reconstruction

Overview of water treatment solutions suitable to a post-disaster context

Clay Water Filters

The American Red Cross and the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society have introduced appropriate clay water filter (CWF) technology to Sri Lanka.

SODIS - Solar Water Disinfection in Sri Lanka

This document looks at a simple way to make water safe to drink by using plastic bottles.


Types of Toilet for Emergencies & Reconstruction

An overview of the types of toilets and different sewerage options available in a post-disaster context

Build Your Own Tippy Tap

A simple device for washing your hands after going to the toilet.

Collapsing Latrine Pits

A short summary of the options to prevent your latrine pit from collapsing.

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