Craft & Design
PlayPumps – Kid powered merry-go-round water pumps

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These merry-go-rounds use kid power to pump water in developing countries, so far 700 PlayPumps have been installed in South Africa – “While children have fun spinning on the PlayPump (1), clean water is pumped (2) from underground (3) into a 2,500-liter tank (4), standing seven meters above the ground. A simple tap (5) makes it easy for women and children to draw water. Excess water is diverted from the storage tank back down into the borehole (6). The water storage tank (7) provides a rare opportunity to advertise in rural communities. All four sides of the tank are leased as billboards, with two sides for consumer advertising and the other two sides for health and educational messages. The revenue generated by this unique model pays for pump maintenance. The design of the PlayPump makes it highly effective, easy to operate and very economical, keeping costs and maintenance to an absolute minimum. Capable of producing up to 1,400 liters of water per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40 meters, it is effective up to a depth of 100 meters. “ [via] – Link. & how it works.

18 thoughts on “PlayPumps – Kid powered merry-go-round water pumps

  1. This is extremely well thought out from every angle.
    I wonder how hard it would be to divert the extra water being pumped and sent back when the tanks is full to some other purpose (I doubt electrical power generation would be reasonable, but the potential energy of water ina a standing tank is fantastic and could be used for powering a grinder). I’m assuming the ammount of water the tank stores and the ammount used vs the ammount pumped is fairly balanced out though. The addition of billboards for revenue is a fantastic addition. Maybe add some solar pannels on the top? But then you’d get a lot of heat buildup in the tank? Would there be enough pannel area to generate a valid ammount of power?

    I’d love to see more stuff like this, even not targeted at 3rd world or technologically/economically lagging countries. The fact that it combines so many elements to help the community, and is so technologically simple yet effective shows how GOOD engineering and well thought out ideas can save the world.

  2. I saw this on Frontline and was inspired enough to show the piece to my kids who immediately started raisng funds at their local school to send to the project. They were impressed not only by the usefulness to the community, but also beacuse they felt all kids, everywhere should have somewhere to play. They also wondered about generating power, but realised that fresh drinking water is the issue, not electricity.

    Agree with the earlier comment about more projects like this with simple technology to solve real local problems. Reminds me of another project I saw which had a human powered generator/pump built from a bicycle frame. Great examples of Low Tech solving Big Problems.

  3. “A simple tap (5) makes it easy for women and children to draw water.”

    I didn’t think anyone talked like this anymore. Is it difficult for men to get draw water this way?

  4. Be careful you don’t burden third world people with first world ideals. Let them develop at their own speed. When they have plenty of idle time to sit around and philosophize, perhaps they’ll think about freedom of the sexes. Food and water first.

  5. Be careful you don’t burden third world people with first world ideals. Let them develop at their own speed. When they have plenty of idle time to sit around and philosophize, perhaps they’ll think about freedom of the sexes. Food, water and shelter first.

  6. It kills several birds with one stone.

    entertainment for kids
    advertizing for businesses
    emergency water supply for fire fighting (perhaps)
    provides regular safe water supply
    uses free energy
    simple enough to build

  7. First the idea seems great. But as a technologist I am always interested in how something works. No where in all the prose by and about Play Pumps does the organization reveal how the pump itself works. Is it simply an automated flapper valve on a reciprocating rod i.e. like the old windmill and hand pumps or did the “inventor” really develop a new mechanism for the actual pump? Every thing written about this system studiously avoids describing the pump BUT implies that it is patented leading one to the idea that it is something new and unique. Let Play Pump add a description of the pump mech to their story so that all can truly understand.

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