Reliable access to safe water supplies for hygiene and cleaning purposes is extremely important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The SPHERE Handbook recommends at least 15 litres per person per day for drinking and domestic hygiene. This summary provides estimated water volumes required for non-domestic uses in emergency settings (e.g. 100 litres per isolation room for a SARS patient). 

Where reliable, safe water supplies are not currently available, action should be taken to increase access. Short-term or immediate solutions include mobilization of water tanker trucks and construction of new protected boreholes. Where possible, extension of existing water distribution networks can help increase access.  

Workers involved in water distribution and treatment or increasing water access should be considered essential and allowed to continue their work even if movement restrictions are implemented. Workers should continue following standard safety precautions including wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. No additional safety measures related to COVID-19 are necessary. Because water access is so essential, water utilities and treatment plants should consider making contingency plans to ensure water services are not interrupted. This may include making sure there are an adequate number of trained staff members to operate and maintain facilities, distribution networks and other infrastructure, maintaining a stock of necessary supplies (for water treatment, water quality monitoring, and maintenance of infrastructure), and ensuring any disruptions to supply chains can be quickly addressed. 

Want to know more about faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19?

Editor's note

Author: Jackie Knee
Review: Tom Heath, Robert Dreibelbis, Oliver Cumming, Karin Gallandat, Kate Medlicott
Last update: 01.05.2020

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