In the aftermath of a natural disaster, particularly earthquakes, infrastructure could be damaged and a safe source of drinking water is often not available. This may be due to damaged pipes or water supplies becoming contaminated. Our colleagues at Oxfamstate; “In the initial phases of an emergency it should be assumed that all water sources are contaminated microbiologically. After the initial phase of the emergency is over, investigation can then be undertaken into the microbiological, and where appropriate, the chemical constituents of the water.” Read our blog about water safety after the Nepal earthquake earlier this year.
It is not only large water networks that are affected, TheCenters for Disease Control and Prevention comments, “Floods and other disasters can damage drinking water wells and lead to aquifer and well contamination. Flood waters can contaminate well water with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants which can lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other hygiene activities.”
If a natural disaster is imminent, it is advised that a suitable amount of water is stored beforehand; either in large water containers or in the form of bottled water. The human body can survive for weeks without food but only hours without water. There is no way to tell if a water source is safe just by looking at it, however, if the water has an unusual smell, sheen or colour then it’s advised to use an alternative source until the water can be tested.
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA)president and CEO, Joe Doss said, “While catastrophic situations are thankfully rare, boil alerts and other types of public water system disruptions are frequent occurrences. In addition, continued volatility in weather only reinforces the importance of always being prepared for unexpected and dangerous weather.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has established guidelines for drinking water quality. The DelAgua Water Testing Kits can test for key WHO parameters, including faecal and total coliforms, total and free chlorine, turbidity, pH and temperature, and are often used in emergency situations. The kit is portable and can be used at source, which allows users to test where laboratory facilities do not exist.
It is important contaminated water is treated to prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases. Contaminated water can transmit diseases such diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause 502,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year (WHO, 2015). Water can be made safe by boiling, adding disinfectants or filtering.
Listen here, to hear Oli Harris Head of Marketing at DelAgua, speak on BBC Wiltshire Radio to Simeon Courtie about the importance of clean water, particularly after natural disasters.