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
Ensuring appropriate water quality for water consumption and hygiene activities
Water testing

Water testing


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

Water testing is essential in order to understand the quality and aesthetics. This enables harmful contaminants such as bacteria, odor, taste, turbidity, nitrates, phosphates, and arsenic to be identified and removed. Failure to do proper testing is likely to lead to harm to human health and has the potential to cause the spread of disease that will harm people and the wider environment.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Some chemicals and heavy metals have particular impacts on women (especially reproductive health) and children (especially child development – noting also that caring for children with developmental problems tends to fall on women). E.g. lead, mercury….. So the gender and diversity implications here are clear. Obviously, it depends on what is the contaminant and who it most affects.


Environmental impact categories

Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Water and soil pollution from contaminants in the environment. Impacts on flora, fauna / aquatic ecosystems, and human health.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

It is important to identify and mitigate prevalent water contaminants and avoid introducing new ones. Contaminants come from many sources including phosphate and nitrate runoff from agriculture, including illicit crops, leachates from mining, quarrying, and logging; soil washed into rivers due to slash-and-burn land clearance; stagnant water resulting from poor solid waste management or poorly controlled sewage outfalls.

Such contaminants reduce oxygen levels, increase turbidity, change pH, affect the taste, kill aquatic life, harbor disease vectors including mosquito-borne disease. Pollution with heavy metals from artisanal mining has developmental impacts on children; the impact of chemicals from improper fumigation can cause severe diseases, including cancer.


Summary of environmental activities

Test for water pollutants and seek to reduce pollution at source. Where they cannot be reduced, provide adequate water treatment to ensure people are drinking high-quality treated water. The removal of heavy metals from water is chemical-intensive, and often requires dredging and removal of vast quantities of contaminated river sediment – alternative water sources should be sought where possible.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Water quality should be regularly tested and monitored, with treatment strategies in place if relevant standards are not met. Sources of potential water pollution (e.g. livestock, agriculture, latrines, wastewater, solid waste, industry, etc.) should be identified and appropriate mitigation measures put in place to minimize the risk of future water source pollution.

Research and map local sources of chemical pollution upstream, including industries and informal or illicit activities (e.g. mining, illicit crops). Identify potential chemical contaminants, including agrochemicals and heavy metals.

Get information from the ministry of environment about environmental legacies and polluting activities. Identify likely contaminants so that the right tests can be used. Also include consultation with civil society, since some governments can be unwilling to reveal possible environmental legacies and pollution for reasons of political reputation or legal liability.

Integrate appropriate water quality testing. Specific treatment should be followed for different types of contaminants.

Test for pollution of water with heavy metals or agrochemicals due to environmental legacies. Although water should be regularly assessed for chemical pollution and not just biological pollution, this is not always done. In any case, it would be necessary to consult with environmental authorities and industry to identify contaminants to test for.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Anthropogenic activities causing a transformation of the natural nitrogen and phosphorus cycle are considered as one of the most fundamental environmental issues. In the Abadaba river, Agulu lake, Njaba river, Oguta Lake, and Nike Lake located in Southeast, Nigeria, nitrate and phosphate concentrations in water bodies was determined in both dry and wet season by spectrophotometric technique and modeled for pollution and health risks assessment.

Results revealed that nitrate ranged from 13.163±2.30 mg/L at Nike to 36.173±7.22 mg/L Oguta lake in dry season while in the wet season it ranged from 17.402±3.459 mg/L at Abadaba to 26.748±6.536 mg/L at Njaba river. Phosphate ranged from 2.144±0.513 mg/L at Nike to 9.741±3.207 mg/L at Oguta in the dry season while from 36.330±7.420 mg/L at Abadaba to 40.204±6.024 mg/L at Oguta.

Comparing results with World Health Organization (WHO) allowed limits, it revealed that nitrate was low while phosphate was only low in the dry season at Abadaba, Agulu, and Oguta lake. The water bodies showed low variations (< 20 %) with positive linear relationships (R2 ? 0.3) for both nitrate and phosphate in both dry and wet seasons. Furthermore, except at Abadaba and Agulu in the dry/wet season and Njaba and Oguta in the wet season, which showed no significant differences (p > 0.05) between them, all others showed significant differences (p < 0.05) for nitrate and phosphate concentrations. In terms of season, only at Njaba (for phosphate only) showed no significant differences (p > 0.05), all other waterbodies showed significant differences (p < 0.05) in nitrate and phosphate concentration in both seasons.

The nitrate to phosphate ratio was very low especially in the wet season due to the high input of phosphate. The nutrient pollution index showed moderate to very high pollution while the waterbodies will pose very high non-carcinogenic health risks to users via the oral pathway. Overall, the water bodies are at risk of eutrophication and efforts should be put in place to reduce anthropogenic activities around the area and thus input nutrients in these water bodies.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Frequency of water quality testing.

Activity status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and money for water testing and treatment.

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