Water & Sanitation Resources for Recovery and Reconstruction

During and after a disaster, be it natural (e.g. earthquake) or societal (e.g. armed conflict), it is likely that large amounts of people will be displaced into situations whereby they lose access to infrastructure vital to everyday living.

Even populations that have not been displaced may have to contend with damaged and unusable facilities, requiring repair or reconstruction. Along with energy provision, a key component of infrastructure is access to water supplies and sanitation facilities.

Why consider Water & Sanitation in the reconstruction process?

One of the most important and rapidly required areas of infrastructure needed in the aftermath of a disaster is that of water & sanitation; populations will need access to water immediately, both for drinking and washing purposes. Whilst access to clean drinking water is essential, the need for a sanitation system that allows people and their environment to stay clean and prevents the unnecessary spread of germs and disease is just as important. This is necessary for both non-displaced populations that have damaged or reduced access to water infrastructure, and displaced populations that have lost access they may have previously had.

It is likely that in the event of a disaster, conditions for displaced people will be cramped and over-populated. This can quickly lead to problems with human waste, creating a breeding ground for disease. It is therefore vital that infrastructure is implemented relatively quickly to ensure best sanitary control.

Once sufficient access to water has been secured, it is important to assess the implications of a long-term reconstruction period. It is likely that it will take a considerable time for some communities to recover, and post-disaster reconstruction should incorporate a sustainable solution. 

Water & Sanitation in context with People-Centred Reconstruction

The concept of PCR recognises that the recovery process after a disaster in often a long-term commitment, and the overriding aim is to ensure that people are more resilient to future risks and change. Relating the guiding principles of PCR to water and sanitation specifically leads to the following guidelines:

  • Improve sanitary conditions & safety to reduce immediate and future vulnerability.
  • ‘De-centralise’ reliance of water sources, promoting individual capabilities for collection, storage and treatment.
  • Ensure that people have the chance to learn about and build their own water and sanitation infrastructure, by incorporating local customs with easily accessible technology.
  • Understand both the immediate needs and long-term requirements.
  • Develop community responsibility through shared use and management of facilities.
  • Create sustainable access to local water resources.
  • Establish commercial opportunities using new technologies where possible.

A post-disaster recovery process has different stages, and whilst the guiding principles should be considered from the start, it is important to establish what is most necessary and relevant at each particular stage.

What infrastructure is available, and at what stage should it be considered?

The post-disaster reconstruction process can generally be classified into three categories: emergency shelter, transitional shelter and permanent housing. The solutions available can vary in suitability and importance according to the stage of the reconstruction process, the characteristics of the type of settlement, investment and other considerations. A comprehensive study of shelter options after disaster can be found here (here).

Considering these differences, the links below provide some useful information on Water and Sanitation technologies that are appropriate for different stages of the reconstruction process. It should be noted that this site does not attempt to provide a comprehensive list of solutions, and users are suggested to consider additional options as well.

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 wa...

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Water & Sanitation for Transitional Shelters

In many cases it may be that people are displaced for long periods of time before being able to return to a permanent house. In such cases, transitional shelters may be built to provide a link to a more permanent solution. A typical lifespan of a transitional shelter is approximately 5 years. ...

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Water & Sanitation for Permanent Housing

Permanent housing affords the occupants an opportunity to continue developing with the ‘Building Back Better’ approach. Whilst providing a lasting solution for accommodation, there is the opportunity to include many Water and Sanitation technologies for the following: • Re...

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