Water Sanitation Health

Emergency treatment of drinking-water at the point of use

Technical note 5 on drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies

Looking after clean water

There is no point in treating water if it becomes contaminated again afterwards. The storage and use of treated water is just as important as the treatment process.

Water storage

Water should be stored in clean, covered containers and kept in a cool dark place. Wide-necked containers such as a bucket fitted with a tight fitting lid are the best as they are easy to clean between uses.

Contamination can also occur as the water is taken out of the storage container. Hands and utensils may come into contact with the water so it is important to encourage users to wash their hands with soap before handling drinking water; and to fit a tap to the storage container so that water can be poured directly into a cup or bowl (Figure 5.8).

Hygiene promotion

The benefit of providing safe drinking-water will be lost if users do not know how they will benefit. Changing unhygienic behaviour is just as important as the provision of clean water. Emergencies can provide a good opportunity to introduce new hygienic practices. As users settle into a new environment, they are more likely to accept changes to their normal behaviour.

For water supply and sanitation, the most important practice to change relates to handwashing. Don’t assume everyone knows how to wash their hands properly. Show them.