15 April 2019

Water Supply in Urban Settings

Millions of refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) around the world settle every year in Urban Settings, be that in host families, private housing arrangements or on lands owned by the local community. Just liked in any humanitarian response setting, water supply in urban settings must aim to reduce health risks of the affected population. However, in this context, both the displaced as well as the host community must be served. The SPHERE Standards for water supply provide the following guidelines:

  • 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 clear advantage for water supply in urban settings compared to the Camps is that infrastructure and services already exist. However, this situation also presents challenges, namely relating to infrastructural gaps, added pressure on the existing national services as well as the risk of competition for limited resources. A strained supply network can mean that refugees and IDPs are forced to refer to bottled water and water trucking, which are usually more expensive than tap water. Here, humanitarian actors can play an important role by providing subsidies to the refugees and IDPs or by coordinating and supporting municipalities and water authorities to fill the infrastructure gaps.

Guiding tools for water source and distribution as well as for water treatment for Urban Settings are provided below, taking into account the environmental, technical, financial and social sustainability criteria that must be considered when negotiating infrastructure and service upgrades with municipal 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]

Alternative Versions to