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WaterWheel aims to lighten the load for women in developing nations


January 6, 2014

The WaterWheel is designed to transport three to five times as much water as traditional methods

The WaterWheel is designed to transport three to five times as much water as traditional methods

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Since landing in India in September of 2011, social venture Wello has carried out extensive research in an effort to improve the efficiency of water transport and storage in developing countries. For many people living in these areas the chore of walking long distances while carrying buckets of water is inefficient, dangerous and counter-productive. The team's work has culminated in what it believes could form part of a solution, a prototype for a pushable high-quality plastic container dubbed the WaterWheel.

The Waterwheel uses the same principle as the Hippo roller which we first encountered in 2006 and is currently in use throughout Africa – i.e. why carry water when you can roll it.

Measuring 470 mm (18.5 in) in height and 460 mm (18.11 in) in diameter, the WaterWheel has a capacity of 50 L and can be refilled through a 55 mm (2.16 in) hole on its top. It also features a specially designed cap-in-cap seal to prevent recontamination at the point of use, which Wello says is the single most effective way of reducing diarrheal disease.

Health benefits aside, the WaterWheel stands to increase productivity in rural areas by significantly reducing the time spent transporting water. According to Wello, women in these regions spend an average of 25 percent of their day collecting water for their families. With an potential to transport three to five times the amount of water that can be carried using traditional methods, the WaterWheel has the potential to free up time for more constructive activities such as education and food preparation.

In developing the prototype, the team spent 15 months conducting field research and interviewed over 1500 community members in villages in the north-west of India. It will use local manufacturers in Ahmedabad, India to produce to WaterWheel which it says will help to keep costs low.

Wello's vision for the WaterWheel is outlined in the following video. You can also hit the source link below to find out how to get involved in this very worthy project.

Source: Wello

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

This is not new. A similar thing called a Hippo has been around for years in South Africa and the surrounding countries. For some reason it never really took off - probably too expensive.


this gives me the idea of a wheelbarrow with this as the wheel... could carry more than just water or more containers of water :D

Sam Gibbons

Wally, thank you for pointing this out. Hippo Water Roller is still going strong (invented in 1991). Please visit our website to learn more: hipporoller (dot) org It is expensive, but it is designed to be long-lasting, plus includes many benefits.

Sam, you may want to view the Hippo Spaza option - to support your idea.

Hippo Water Roller

No energy expert here, the less in water treatment but since you have the kinetic energy there by rolling that wheel wouldn't be useful to add a generator and perhaps a battery to store that energy and use it later in a lamp or a radio or even using that power to purify that rolling water by electrolysis?

Ramon Fg

The WaterWheel is an excellent solution to water transportation in vulnerable communities. But wait just a sec! Please feel free to call me cynical but:

The similarity in design and construction is remarkably, no, correction, suspiciously, similar to the Hippo Water Roller. Am I to believe that these two virtually identical solutions were developed separately by parties that are continents apart? Yes of course they were! Now pull the other leg! It’s got bells on! From a design and development background I am obliged to conclude that one of these must be a bootleg “replica” (yeah right!) of the other. So which came first? Well the Hippo Water Roller has been around since 1991. So the bootleg “replica” must be….hmmm …no…no... give me a minute. I’m sure I will work it out. Mark Montgomery

I'd be more impressed if a filter was used to clean the water as it rolled along and the filter could be changed or cleaned easily and with no advanced technology required.


Errr, I remember using something very similar to collect water from a standpipe back in the 1950's when on caravan holidays in Cornwall. It seems it has taken some time for the word to spread!


I didn't notice anything in there about purification... did I miss it? Incorporating a silver-laced element into the hub (or something) that would kill pathogens as it rolled might be an added benefit (if also an added expense - but might be worth it?)

A big challenge with these projects is maintenance (beyond the initial investment). If something breaks, they have no way to repair it or even the training as to how to get it working again, so the whole investment is lost, and they're back to square one.

Building it from locally available components, providing ongoing education to local servicing providers (even equipping them in their own business enterprise of repair and support), and vision casting upgrade potentials to the users, such as a harness that attaches the wheel to the family goat, to further "automate" the process. ☺


How much $? Cost is always a problem in countries with a $300/capita/year income.


Yes, the Hippo and the Water Wheel are remarkably similar. So too are the conditions that the users of these device live in. I would find it hard to beleive that the Water Wheel folks are trying to rip off anyone, since there appear to be greater priorities in play. If you can't say something nice.....

Bruce H. Anderson

"Gizmag" is a fantastic website but I get really tired of all the negative comments. Is this society so cynical? So what if there is two companies with similar products. So much easier to bash ideals than create them.


What great thinker said, "If I have seen farther than most it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."?

All ideas come after much reading and/or thinking. We may not remember where or how we were got our "brainstorm" but you can bet we owe our inspiration to others. All ideas overlap.

That is why I am against copyrights. They rely on govt. violence against thinkers/inventors. Just because someone puts a design down on paper and records it should not prevent others from implementing/improving one what they might have thought of first, but did not believe should be a monopoly. Ideas belong to anyone who takes the time to understand them. Their physical manifestations are an extension of our mind. Often the work to make the idea practical is much more extensive than the idea, not to mention the role of capital, which is sometimes the third component necessary for realization. All and all, the first step of conceptualization is necessary but not sufficient. Other components may be more important.

Don Duncan

sounds good. A plastic drum cut/joined (welded or hotglued?) shorter could be even cheaper, maybe with a used mower handle on 'spokes' to pull it


I can already see half a dozen ways to improve on this. But, like Ramon above, I'm also trying to imagine some way of harnessing the kinetic energy to purify and/or disinfect the water. Generators are out, using UV (unless it's just apertures of PET) is out. Needs to be cheap, simple, not add mass, and easy to service/clean.

Ian Bruce

Aquaroll as used by caravanners since ummm 1953 perhaps? http://www.aquaroll.com

Smithwick McGuinness

One easy way to mix concrete


Sam Gibbons - i had the same idea. The Chinese wheelbarrow places the wheel in the center as opposed to the front and allows for heavier loads. These two concepts have to be combined even if you didn't have a load to carry the option should still be there. http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2011/12/the-chinese-wheelbarrow.html

Mark Dunne

Obviously been done before, but still a good idea. Personally, I was not aware of the technology so I'm happy to learn about it here.

My immediate reaction when reading the article was why not hitch this to a bicycle but, after reading the comments, I think MzunguMkubwa is more on track with his excellent ideas for local sourcing, education and other upgrades. I particularly like his idea of using a goat as an traction source.


Don Duncan is living in a fantasy world. If something were to be thought up and put on paper and delivered to a capable facility to build what was on the paper, without a copyright or patent, you would have the manufacturing facility taking all of the share of any profit. Now, multiply that by the Chinese societal problem of "good business practice" by undercutting even your own family member to secure a contract of any sort (since they are basically the only manufacturing nation left) and you have a monopoly on every idea.

Side note: The water wheel is great for these nations and I hope they find a way to make it extremely cheap for the poor.

Steve Milton

Don just watched too much Star Trek ;)


This is a positive comment. Great work, water-wheelers! Now, just one idea I'd like to inject: make it look less grim and low-end industrial. How about some style and color?


Just to add to the mix of previous applications, consider the Dyson water roller. Same thing but longer and designated for a different purpose. It's still a good idea no matter who first thought of it. I just hope that it's applied in a truly charitable fashion. I'd hate any income to be wasted on fighting patents and not on reducing the price.


RULE # 1 OF INVENTING: As soon as you come up with an idea GOOGLE it to see if it already exists. If you find nothing, use Google Patents to see if there's a patent for it.

ONLY THEN should you go to the trouble of actually developing the idea.

That rules seems to have been bypassed for this product.


"the WaterWheel has the potential to free up time for more constructive activities"

Not so fast. They may just increase their use of water and the women would be working the same hours, only each load would be heavier. It's happened before, remember how computers were supposed to make work better by liberating people from doing repetitive tasks?


Make sure the plastic emits plenty of estrogen mimickers

Stewart Mitchell

@ Stewart Mitchell : hence the article's title "lighten the load"... genius (!)

also, next step : the wheelbarrow men can use to plow land they don't have in modern day developed countries.

Uber Lime
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