Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion (WASH)
Access to water for human consumption
Water extraction for water consumption and hygiene activities
Estimation of recharge rates

Estimation of recharge rates


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

The natural water cycle supports the continuous movement of water on, above, and below the surface of the Earth. Human interventions within this natural cycle, such as water extraction, climate change, and construction of impermeable surfaces, can have negative impacts on the natural water resource, such as causing water scarcity, water stress, and water pollution. For example, if there is less water available locally within the cycle, groundwater resources can diminish unsustainably. In addition, changes in rainfall patterns can impact people and ecosystems by altering the availability of water throughout the year.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

People living with chronic or terminal illnesses, the very old and very young, are more vulnerable to water-borne diseases than others.


Environmental impact categories

Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Reduction in water resources.

Harm to humans, flora, fauna, soil health, and ecosystems.

Saline intrusion.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

If groundwater aquifer capacities and recharge rates or river flow rates and seasonal variations are not accurately measured, monitored, or estimated, there is a significant risk of over-abstraction.

Over abstraction can result in a lack of sufficient water for human consumption, depleting water availability for flora and fauna and soil health, and therefore damaging ecosystems. Over abstraction upstream can also deprive people of the water they need downstream.

Over abstraction can also lead to saline intrusion of aquifers which can be very hard to reverse.


Summary of environmental activities

Monitor ground and river water capacities and recharge rates.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Ensure groundwater aquifer capacities and recharge rates or river flow rates and seasonal variations are accurately measured and monitored.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

The humanitarian response to the Darfur crisis included the unmonitored cutting of trees and the abstraction of groundwater.

Water was abstracted from aquifers made from fissured basalt geology. Some years into the response water supply quantities were reduced. Ultimately Humanitarian Actors installed groundwater monitoring and telemetry and managed abstraction more sustainably. This reduced rates of over-abstraction, however alternative sources were ultimately required to support displaced communities.


Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Number of monitored water abstraction points.

Activity status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and cost of groundwater monitoring (e.g. installation of telemetry equipment at tube wells), analysis, reporting.

Potential for significant resources to be required to provide alternative sustainable sources of water if required.

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