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 consumption
Water usage

Water usage


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

Water usage behaviors can have significant impacts on the crisis and on humanitarian activities. Affected people will have expectations regarding how much water they can and should use for different activities, based on their previous habits and culture, which may be based on different locations, climate, and quantities of naturally occurring water resources.

Local climate; climate change; the presence of disease; availability of natural heating or cooling in the home; can all affect how much water people need or use. People living with poor health or disabilities often require more water than others. Certain livelihood activities use large quantities of water including agriculture.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Women, the disabled, sick, elderly, and children usually have the least power in making decisions and may lack access to education. They should be supported in learning about local water resources, scarcity, and conservation.


Environmental impact categories

Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Water depletion due caused by a lack of knowledge of water resources/scarcity.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

When the availability of water resources is not explained to users, a possible perception is that these resources may be unlimited, leading to unsustainable use.


Summary of environmental activities

Consult communities regarding their water use; support them in assessing and understanding available water resources; promote water conservation practices including the use of flow restriction devices; grey water recycling and rain and stormwater collection.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Consult communities on their water use practices and involve them in assessing water availability and reviewing their own water usage.

Take advantage of rainwater and stormwater where the context allows. For example, promote rainwater harvesting and stormwater collection for flushing toilets or washing clothes (in shelters, public buildings, or where applicable).

Promote the reuse of safe to handle grey water for similar uses and implement strategies for minimizing water consumption (low flow showers, bucket systems), verifying that grey water is not polluted with heavy metals or other contaminants that may do harm the environment or cause adverse effects in surrounding ecosystems.

Rainwater harvesting can reduce pressures on water resources in water-stressed settings. Rainwater is naturally potable and is also less vulnerable to source pollution if appropriate safeguards (such as first flush systems and appropriate storage containers) are employed.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Many communities take water for granted as if it is an unending natural resource. The Cape Town water crisis in South Africa is an example of a severe water shortage.

While dam water levels had been declining since 2015, the Cape Town water crisis peaked during mid-2017 to mid-2018 when water levels hovered between 15 and 30 percent of total dam capacity. In late 2017, there were first mentions of plans for “Day Zero”, a shorthand reference for the day when the water level of the major dams supplying the City could fall below 13.5 percent.

“Day Zero” would mark the start of Level 7 water restrictions, when municipal water supplies would be largely switched off and it was envisioned that residents could have to queue for their daily ration of water. If this had occurred, it would have made the City of Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water. The water crisis occurred at the same time as the still ongoing, as of 2021, Eastern Cape drought located in a separate region nearby.

The City of Cape Town implemented significant water restrictions in a bid to curb water usage and succeeded in reducing its daily water usage by more than half to around 500 million liters (130,000,000 US gal) per day in March 2018. The fall in water usage led the City to postpone its estimate for “Day Zero”, and strong rains starting in June 2018 led to dam levels recovering. In September 2018, with dam levels close to 70 percent, the city began easing water restrictions, indicating that the worst of the water crisis was over.

Good rains in 2020 effectively broke the drought and resulting water shortage when dam levels reached 95 percent.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

People have been instructed about the use of water and the alternative options for collection and use of water

Activity status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time to consult communities and raise awareness on water resources/sustainability.

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