Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WaterWheel to ease burden on women

Girls and women carrying plastic jerry cans of water on their heads is a common sight in rural areas of poor countries. The WaterWheel eases that burden by storing water in a round 50-litre container that doubles as a wheel.

Designed after consultations with villagers in the dry northern Indian state of Rajasthan, the WaterWheel is made from high-quality plastic that can withstand rough terrain. It will sell for $25-$30, compared with $75-$100 for similar products.

"Our goal is to distribute on a large scale, on small margins to 10,000-20,000 customers a year," says Cynthia Koenig, founder and chief executive of Wello, a US social venture working on ways to deliver clean water in poor countries. Wello won a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada prize to develop the WaterWheel.

The idea came from an exploratory trip to India in 2010 to ask what people thought of the idea of rolling water, instead of carrying it. "We were pleasantly surprised," Koenig says. "We returned a year later, worked in close collaboration with villages in Rajasthan, and kept coming back to the idea of rolling water. We were surprised the idea had so much traction - we never thought it would work in India."

The designers played around with different sizes - 10-20 litres - before agreeing on 50 litres. While the WaterWheel was created with women in mind, as they tend to collect water, Koenig says Wello has been surprised by its popularity among men.

"One of most exciting things is that men love using it, they see it as a tool," she adds. "Men take on the primary role so the women are freed up to do other things. Or the role is split so men use it four days a week and the women use it two days. It has reduced the burden on women. A nurse told me she is not late for work anymore because the husband collects the water."

The device, to be constructed Ahmedabad city in Gujarat, also saves time, at least an hour in many cases. It is also being used for irrigation and to bring water to animals.

Wello plans to sell the WaterWheel in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat states, as well as explore opportunities for water purification. {Via The Guardian}