Water Quality Analysis in Emergency Situations

Publication date

03 Jun 2006

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Water quality analysis is required in emergency situations to determine whether water is safe to drink. People who are traumatised by an emergency event and in poor health are particularly vulnerable to water related diseases including those which are spread through the drinking of poor quality water. In the initial phases of an emergency it should be assumed that all water sources are contaminated microbiologically and when water is supplied to people in camp situations, chlorination and the testing of chlorine residual should always be undertaken. For water with a low turbidity, chlorination is reasonably simple, but for water with a high turbidity, a pre-treatment process will be required to reduce the turbidity levels to <5TU prior to chlorination. 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. This Technical Brief outlines the usual testing regime as recommended for use by OXFAM staff in emergency situations. It focuses on what is realistic during the various stages of an emergency, whilst also ensuring that water is safe for the affected populations. It looks at microbiological, physical and chemical testing parameters. It does not replace the water testing kit instruction materials but is complementary and they should be read together.