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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

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.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)


Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)


Guidance notes

  1. Water sources selection: The following factors should be considered in water source selection: availability, proximity and sustainability of sufficient quantity of water; whether treatment is needed; and its feasibility, including the existence of any social, political or legal factors concerning the source. Generally, groundwater sources and/or gravity-flow supplies from springs are preferable, as they require less treatment and no pumping. In disasters, a combination of approaches and sources is often required in the initial phase. All sources need to be regularly monitored to avoid over-exploitation.
  2. Needs: The quantities of water needed for domestic use is context based, and may vary according to the climate, the sanitation facilities available, people’s habits, their religious and cultural practices, the food they cook, the clothes they wear, and so on. Water consumption generally increases the nearer the water source is to the dwelling. Where possible, 15 litres per person per day (l/p/d) can be exceeded to conform to local standards where that standard is higher. For guidance on minimum water quantities needed for institutions and other uses, see Appendix 2: Minimum water quantities for institutions and other uses. For emergency livestock water needs, refer to Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (see References and further reading).
  3. Measurement: Household surveys, observation and community discussion groups are more effective methods of collecting data on water use and consumption than the measurement of water pumped into the pipeline network or the operation of hand pumps.
  4. Quantity/coverage: In a disaster, and until minimum standards for both water quantity and quality are met, the priority is to provide equitable access to an adequate quantity of water even if it is of intermediate quality. Disasteraffected people are significantly more vulnerable to disease; therefore, water access and quantity indicators should be reached even if they are higher than the norms of the affected or host population. Particular attention should be paid to ensure the need for extra water for people with specific health conditions, such as HIV and AIDS, and to meet the water requirement for livestock and crops in drought situations. To avoid hostility, it is recommended that water and sanitation coverage address the needs of both host and affected populations equally (see Appendix 2: Minimum water quantities for institutions and other uses).
  5. Maximum numbers of people per water source: The number of people per source depends on the yield and availability of water at each source. The approximate guidelines are:

    These guidelines assume that the water point is accessible for approximately eight hours a day only and water supply is constant during that time. If access is greater than this, people can collect more than the 15 litres/day minimum requirement. These targets must be used with caution, as reaching them does not necessarily guarantee a minimum quantity of water or equitable access.
  6. Queueing time: Excessive queueing times are indicators of insufficient water availability due to either an inadequate number of water points or inadequate yields at water sources. The potential negative results of excessive queueing times are reduced per capita water consumption, increased consumption from unprotected surface sources and reduced time for other essential survival tasks for those who collect water.
  7. Access and equity: Even if a sufficient quantity of water is available to meet minimum needs, additional measures are needed to ensure equitable access for all groups. Water points should be located in areas that are accessible to all, regardless of, for example, gender or ethnicity. Some hand pumps and water carrying containers may need to be designed or adapted for use by people living with HIV and AIDS, older people, persons with disabilities and children. In situations where water is rationed or pumped at given times, this should be planned in consultation with the users including women beneficiaries.