03 May 2019

Water Supply in Rural Settings

Both the millions of displaced that live in Rural Settings as well as their host communities require access to safe, adequate and secure water supply, in order to reduce their health risks. The The Sphere Project Standards provides the following minimum standards for water supply in rural settings:

  • SPHERE, Water Supply Standard 1: Access and Water Quantity. All people have safe and equitable access to a sufficient quantity of water for drinking, cooking and personal and domestic hygiene. Public water points are sufficiently close to households to enable use of the minimum water requirement.
  • SPHERE, Water Supply Standard 2: Water Quality. Water is palatable and of sufficient quality to be drunk and used for cooking and personal and domestic hygiene without causing risk to health.
  • SPHERE, Water Supply Standard 3: Water Facilities. People have adequate facilities to collect, store and use sufficient quantities of water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, and to ensure that drinking water remains safe until it is consumed.

The goal of humanitarian interventions for refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in rural settings is to provide the conditions for a dignified life that are comparable to those of the host communities. Therefore, the displaced communities should be integrated into national services. Where access to the national network cannot be ensured, the displaced must be assisted in obtaining access to alternative supply (e.g. bottled water or water trucking) which is often expensive.

Challenges presented to humanitarian actors by the rural settings include a) the limited availability of infrastructure and services in comparison to urban settings, b) the reduced ability of villages’ infrastructure to rapidly upgrade to meet the exceptional needs, and c) the difficulty to obtain access from the authorities. For this reason, present infrastructural gaps should be carefully identified when extending humanitarian assistance to these areas. In order to set appropriate priorities, a good understanding must be obtained of the geographic location of a) where refugees and IDPs are concentrating/self-settling, b) the area where water supply services are poor and c) the areas within the rural host communities that have poor economic status.

It is equally important to establish strong coordination schemes between the involved actors and to prevent competition between host communities and the refugees. The multi-stakeholder setting as well as changes within it must be closely monitored and reported upon in collaboration with the stakeholders.

Guiding tools for water source and distribution as well as for water treatment in Rural Settings are provided below. The environmental, technical, financial and social sustainability criteria of the individual situation must always be considered when upgrading or modifying existing rural infrastructure together with the authorities.

Library References

The Sphere Handbook

This appendix of SPHERE handbook is a water supply and sanitation initial needs assessment checklist. This list of questions is primarily for use to assess needs, identify indigenous resources and describe local conditions. It does not include questions to determine external resources needed in addition to those immediately and locally available.

THE SPHERE PROJECT (2011): The Sphere Handbook. Rugby: Practical Action Publishing URL [Accessed: 19.10.2016]

WASH in Rural Areas

This entry discusses WASH responses in rural dispersed settings. WASH interventions help to improve hygiene and health, and reduce morbidity and mortality among both refugees and host populations. In the first phases of an emergency, a WASH response in rural dispersed settings focuses on identifying WASH infrastructural gaps and needs, and software components required, as well as monitoring the WASH situation.

UNHCR (2015): WASH in Rural Areas. In: UNHCR ; (2015): Emergency Handbook. Geneva: . URL [Accessed: 26.10.2016]

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