Water carrying methods

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In many places around the world, piped supply of drinking water or motorised vehicles for its transport are not available.Water must be physically carried by humans and the most common means of transportation are buckets, wheelbarrows, and animal-drawn carts. Carrying domestic water from the source usually requiresphysical loading which may implyhealth consequences . For instance,as far as children are concerned, such regular physical stress can result in bones and soft tissues early degenerative changes . Walking long distances is also time-consuming and may prevent children from going to school and impede their social and economic development.

What are we doing to ease the non-mechanised carrying ofdomestic water?
This text is not only a brief review ofthe classic ways of carrying domestic water but also addresses some of the more recenttechnologies. We focuseon human andanimal poweredtransportation, and excludegravity or mechanised technologies. We also leave out water collection and fetching instruments, and of courselocal water vendors, as a means to bring water to households.

Based on the challenges faced when using traditional technologies, we selected the following criteria:

Quantity of water transported
Assuming that we are responding to basic water needs (consumption and hygiene) the minimum volume per trip should be around 20L/person/day.

Safe transport and storage

The container keeps water safe from contamination duringreturn carriage and allows for hygienic storageat the household.

Water Spilling

The technology and container component preserves the volume of water carried and prevents it from spilling or evaporating during storage.

Adaptability to difficult terrain

Water can be transported throughdifficult terrain.

Container weight

The technology allows water to be loaded and carried withoutexposure to long-term physical injury.

The traditional ways

Buckets or jars

Opened containers that are often carried on the head, on the back or by hand.

Animal-drawn cart

Wheeled carts drawn by a domestic animal such as donkeys, horses, cows, etc. Protection of water from contamination would depend on the type of container used.


Hand-propelled vehicles used for conveying a load, designed to be pushed and guided by a single person using two handles at one end, and supported by a wheel or wheels at the other. Healthy and hygienic transportationis only ensured if water is contained in safely closedcontainers.

More recent and innovative ways

Thanks to the work of researchers, engineers, social workers and communities, innovative technologies of carrying water have been developed. Some of these devices are already used in different regions around the world and are socially accepted by local communities.The main improvements and achievements are time savings, the reduction of physical efforts and suffering, the prevention of spilling water and move around tough terrain, as well as the improvement of health and hygiene.

Pulled or pushed instruments


Donut-shaped plastic container made of durable plastic material, fitted with a central hole, through which a rope is tied-up, to pull or roll the drum over long distances and most type of terrain. It can contain up to 50 litres.


45 litres capacity rolling container designed with a wide mouth that can open to facilitatepouring and cleaning, as well as cap-in-cap to keeps water clean.

Hippo Water Roller

Water tank that can be pushed or pulled depending on gradients and type of terrain. Its tank can contain up to 90 litres and can be purchased witha special cap that eases the dispense of water, can attachfilters, and be used for irrigation.


Cart on wheels designed with structures to keep water containers vertical and avoid spilling. The cart is pulled from one end and can carry 20 litres of water. The containers used must be properly closed to prevent water contamination.

Loaded containers


Backpack designedtocarry about 20 litres ofwater and equipped with a removable liner, which can be sanitizedthrough exposure to sunlight. It also includesa spout for dispensing water and a resistantouter shell.


Water carrying device that can be used in different ways, around the shoulders, neck or torso, as well as be slung across the back or on the head, depending on the social and contextual setting. It can also be divided into smaller containers.

In sum, there is noperfect solution. Rolling technologies present many advantages but they are definitely not adapted if someone needs to walk up stairs or throughvery steep slopes. Also, loaded containers will inevitably have consequences on the health of the carrier.

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