Water and Sanitation (WASH)

Water and Sanitation (WASH)

Key environmental issues linked to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Water and Sanitation (WASH)

Back

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming and the environment are inherently linked and interdependent. Sustainable WASH outcomes cannot be realized where there are poor environmental conditions or practices. A lack of environmental considerations undermines the effectiveness of WASH interventions, for example through the depletion or contamination of water resources.

The consequences of potential environmental impacts from WASH programming extend past water resources. Implementing WASH activities and the continued usage and maintenance of WASH infrastructure can lead to negative environmental impacts such as loss of biodiversity, land and soil degradation and air emissions. Environmental degradation can threaten livelihoods or inhibit recovery activities. Mainstreaming environmental considerations into WASH programming presents an opportunity to preserve and build resilience to future natural and environmental hazards.

Environmental consequences from WASH programming can be externalized to other locations. Transporting solid waste, wastewater or faecal sludge to another location does not resolve the environmental issue. Practitioners need to consider and understand the entirety of the waste and pollution management cycle, particularly the final disposal. Not doing so would be contrary to the do-no-harm principle that humanitarians should abide by.

Climate change introduces many environmental challenges for the WASH sector. Precipitation variability is higher, with increased severity of extreme precipitation phenomena such as floods or droughts. Climate change exacerbates water scarcity in areas already under considerable water scarcity pressures, whilst other areas face increased risk of flooding. Rising sea levels will have significant impacts for freshwater supplies in coastal communities and expanding tropic regions could affect the spread of climate-sensitive diseases.

WASH programs can help build resilience to climatic challenges by promoting climate and environmentally appropriate management of ecosystems that reduce climate risks, and water resources to ensure adequate and sustainable supply to clean water.

To reduce negative environmental impacts, WASH programming should seek to include the following environmental considerations:

 

Resources

Key Resource

The Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+)

The Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+) is an environmental screening tool that allows humanitarian actors to quickly identify issues of environmental concern before designing longer term emergency or recovery interventions. It is conducted on Kobo data collection platform (on phone, tablet or computer) and produces an automatically generated report in Excel, categorizing areas of risk into high, medium and low and providing associated narrative that can be helpful towards mitigation.

The NEAT+ and associated guidance material provide more detail on the tool.

Visit

Key Resource

Ten tips how humanitarians can protect the environment

On World Humanitarian Day 2018, UN Environment published an overview of key environmental considerations for humanitarian action.

Visit

Key Resource

The Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment in Disasters (REA) tool

The Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment in Disaster (REA) is a tool to identify, define, and prioritize potential environmental impacts in disaster situations.

Visit

Key Resource

The Sphere Handbook

The Handbook is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized tools for the delivery of the quality humanitarian response

Visit

Key Resource

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Environmental Considerations

This document links key environmental considerations to WASH projects and provides guidance for good environmental management throughout the project cycle.

Visit

Key Resource

USAID Sector Environmental Guidelines: Water Supply and Sanitation

An overview of best practices drawn from lessons learned in the field over more than 30 years with both participatory approaches and technical design.

Visit

Key Resource

Environmental Best Practice in WASH Operations

This paper describes the main environment-related issues which should be considered and addressed in programs relating to WASH planning and ensuing practices in an emergency operation.

Download

Key Resource

Global WASH Cluster Key Concepts and Considerations in Emergency Response

This paper provides an overview of key concepts and considerations with regards to the environment and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities undertaken in emergency operations.

Download

Key Resource

Potential Environmental Impact Checklist for Common WASH Interventions

Checklist for potential environmental impacts of WASH interventions

Download

Key Resource

Green Recovery & Reconstruction Toolkit: Training Toolkit for Humanitarian Aid (GRRT)

The GRRT is a toolkit and training program designed to increase awareness and knowledge of environmentally responsible disaster response approaches.

Visit

Additional Resource

Evaluating Climate Vulnerability in Humanitarian Hotspots

This study, conducted in 2019, focuses on the definition of climate vulnerability with operational and political perspectives and delivers guidelines for assessing climate vulnerability in long-term crises, such as in conflict-affected countries and recurrent disaster-prone areas.

The research draws on an extensive academic literature review in the fields of biology, political science, sociology and geography. It derives data from a variety of innovative projects and methods in the field of development and humanitarian aid, induced and encouraged by the Grand Bargain. In addition, the research offers a contribution to the IKI Project carried out by the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit in the refugee camp of Gitega Province in Burundi.

The study is available in French only.

Download

Additional Resource

Mozambique Shelter Cluster & UNDP – General strategy for risk reduction linked to asbestos cement

This strategy addresses awareness, assessment and management of asbestos cement material present in debris and damaged roofing following Cyclone Idai in Mozambique (2019). Drawing from the case study, the strategy (document) provides a general outline of key steps to raise awareness (presentation) ; design trainings; and plan and implement safe removal, handling and disposal of asbestos in emergency situations (Guidance Note)

 

Download

Additional Resource

Reducing Environmental Impacts of Vector Control Chemicals in Emergencies

Disasters can create environments in which vectors can increase dramatically and spread diseases. However, the chemicals most commonly used to dispose of these vectors can damage the environment and health. This paper provides guidance on how to create post-disaster sanitary efforts that remove the amount of vectors while simultaneously reducing harm to the environment and human health.

Download

Additional Resource

Flood Resilience Portal

The Flood Resilience Portal is a tool which provides open access to resources to build resiliency to floods. It issues reviews of past responses and provides community-specific flood resilience measurements.

Visit

Additional Resource

Prepare Center

PrepareCenter.org is an initiative established by the Red Cross which provides reports, case studies and training materials to encourage better preparedness for emergencies. It also provides insights and tools to integrate themes such as climate change, environment and urban resilience in disaster preparedness.

Visit

Additional Resource

WHO UNFCCC – Climate and Health Country Profile Project

The WHO UNFCCC Climate and Health Country Profile Project provides country-specific estimates of current and future climate hazards. It also identifies the  effects of climate change on human health and identifies mitigation and policy change actions. The data is collected via biennial surveys and was completed in 2017. The next series will be released in 2019 and will cover approximately 80 countries.

 

Visit

Additional Resource

Haiti Environment and Humanitarian Action Country Study

The Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) – Haiti country study is one in a series of country-level studies that assess the extent to which environmental concerns have been mainstreamed in humanitarian action. In April 2015, the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, supported by Groupe URD, undertook a mission to Haiti to look at environmental mainstreaming in the humanitarian response to floods, tropical storms, hurricanes and mainly on the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

 

Visit

Additional Resource

Nepal Environment and Humanitarian Action Country Study

The Nepal Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) country-level study is one in a series of studies undertaken by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit (JEU) in 2015 that assesses the extent to which environmental concerns have been mainstreamed in humanitarian action. It provides guidance to humanitarian actors on how to improve environmental mainstreaming in a rapid onset emergency.

Visit

Additional Resource

Afghanistan Environment and Humanitarian Action country study

The Afghanistan Environment and Humanitarian Action (EHA) country-level study is one in a series of studies undertaken by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit (JEU) in 2015 that assesses the extent to which environmental concerns have been
mainstreamed in humanitarian action. This study provides guidance and advice to humanitarian actors on how to improve environmental mainstreaming in a protracted crisis.

Visit

Additional Resource

Environmental Impact Assessments in Refugee Crises

A short report on environmental impact assessments in refugee crises

Visit

Additional Resource

Groupe URD: Implications of Refugee Settlements on the Natural Environment and on Refugee and Host Community Resilience

This study by Groupe URD aimed to identify and measure the environmental impact of forced migration in two contexts: Lebanon, where there are a large number of Syrian refugees who have fled the crisis in their country, and Cameroon, where there are Central African and Nigerian refugees. It was carried out in 2017 as part of a research project for the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.

Download

Additional Resource

NRC: The Ecological Impact of Refugee/Returnee Programmes

An Norwegian Refugee Council evaluation report on the ecological impacts of refugee programs and actions taken to mitigate such impacts.

Visit

Additional Resource

UNEP: Key Things to Know About Environment as “Cross Cutting” Issue in Early Recovery

This brief UN Environment note provides an overview of key environmental considerations for early recovery actors, including a short cluster-specific checklist.

Visit

Additional Resource

UNEP/UNISDR: Reducing Risk Through Environment in Recovery Operations

This UNEP/UNISDR paper provides an introductory review of the recovery operations in terms of integrating environment and long-term disaster risk reduction.

Visit

Additional Resource

A Note on Environmental Mainstreaming

Environmental mainstreaming is a process by which environmental considerations become part of the existing core work of a predominantly non-environmental sector. This short explanation outlines the mechanisms of environmental mainstreaming and how it typically occurs.

Download

Additional Resource

IFRC Green Response

IFRC’s Green Response seeks to save lives and reduce suffering without risking damage to the livelihoods, health and survival of affected people and improving the environmental outcomes of life-saving operations.

Visit

Additional Resource

WHO Fact Sheets on Environmental Sanitation

A WHO compilation of fact sheets and mitigating processes for water, sanitation, and hygiene education.

Visit

Additional Resource

WaterAid: How does WASH help build resilience to climate change?

A WaterAid briefing note explaining why improved WASH services are central to any climate change adaptation strategy

Visit

Additional Resource

UNICEF: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Environment

An explanation of the links between WASH and Environment by UNICEF

Visit

Additional Resource

The Global WASH Cluster

WASH Cluster Homepage

Visit

Additional Resource

WASH Alliance: Environmental Sustainability in WASH

A collection of environmental sustainability tools by the WASH Alliance

Visit

Additional Resource

ACF WASH & Environment Position Paper

A paper on environmental preservation, protection and recovery in WASH programs

Visit

Additional Resource

UN Environment Resource Centre – WASH

A collection of different resources on WASH and environment

Visit

Additional Resource

Evidence on Demand, Mainstreaming Environment and Climate Change into Humanitarian Action

This study, published by Evidence on Demand provides an overview of the key reasons that environmental and climate change issues are relevant in the context of humanitarian action.

Visit
Back
to top
icon-menu icon-close icon-account icon-arrow icon-down icon-back icon-pointed-arrow icon-left icon-up icon-bookmark icon-share twitter facebook2 printer envelope icon-close-alt icon-top icon-loading