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  • Writer's pictureKayleanna Giesinger

Post Disaster Water Access Optimization



Political and environmental disasters are increasing in frequency due to climate change, extreme population growth and unrest (McCarthy, 2001). These disasters kill thousands of people and displace millions (Smadi, Theeb, & Bawa’neh, 2018). In 2016, it was estimated that 67.7 million people were considered vulnerable and the number has only been increasing (Jahre, Kembro, Adjahossou, & Altay, 2018; UNHCR, 2016; EMDAT, 2009). The people affected by these events are vulnerable and often highly susceptible to illness and death if not provided with adequate and timely support. Disaster relief is the response to the various political or environmental disasters. Relief comes in the form of a set of actions conducted during the initial impact of these emergency situations for last mile distribution or refugee camps. The intent being to save lives and prevent further damage through rapid provision of emergency food, water, medicine, shelter, and supplies (Barbarosoglu & Arda, 2004; Balick & Beamon, 2008). The work done for disaster relief is often established under high-pressure circumstances with limited access to funding and resources. However, studies have been finding that in these circumstances the logistical planning hasn’t been optimized, resulting in delayed relief efforts and undelivered aid (Caunhye, Nie, & Pokharel, 2012). For this to be done efficiently, the supply chain must take into account the beneficiaries social, economic and political characteristics along with the geographic region’s limitations. As a result, a push for disaster relief operations researched has begun to evolve since the early 2000s (Nolz, Doerner, & Hartl, 2010)


The work being doing is still limited and almost non-existent when it comes to water specific optimization. Lack of research in this field is concerning since accessing safe drinking water is one of the first priorities following a disaster (Loo, Fane, Krantz, & Lim, 2012). Vulnerable populations must receive a continuous supply of clean water for drinking, personal hygiene, sanitary food preparation and healthcare (Nolz, Doerner, & Hartl, 2010). This will ensure prevention of the spread of water borne diseases (Toole, 1990; Clasen, 2004; Frist, 2005). If the populations affected by disaster are not provided safe water resources, the region risks widespread illnesses or epidemics (Nolz, Doerner, & Hartl, 2010). Unfortunately, this does happen in some countries when faced with severe water contamination and lack of access to infrastructure (Loo, Fane, Krantz, & Lim, 2012).


The objective of this study is to review predominate challenges associated with water access post disasters and the various disaster relief optimization methods that exist. Then to apply the knowledge of these reviews to two disaster relief water access optimization case studies. The inefficiencies and efficiencies in the case study systems will be assessed. By doing this, the groundwork for water access optimization in the future will be set and essential future research pathways will be identified.




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