Playing for Water
Part of the Water: H2O = Life exhibition.
As children spin on this merry-go-round, they are also pumping water from a deep well called a borehole. The water flows to an elevated storage tank where it is kept sanitary for drinking. The tank also serves as a billboard, both for public health information and advertising; revenues from ads pay for upkeep and maintenance of the pump. More than 700 of these PlayPump® water systems have been installed in rural areas in South Africa and several other sub-Saharan African countries.
In a full-sized pump, spinning the wheel 16 times a minute provides enough energy to pump about 1,400 liters (350 gallons) an hour from a well 40 meters (120 feet) deep.
The spinning energy drives a simple pump. The pump draws water from underground and pipes it into a 2,500 liter (660 gallon) storage tank. When the tank is full, any overflow is simply pumped back into the ground.
Hand pumps often aren't powerful enough to get water from deep wells, though foot pumps are often effective. Electrical pumps--where there is power to run them--can be hard to repair. The PlayPump system, in contrast, uses a simple mechanism with only two moving parts to convert spinning energy to pumping energy. Here, children drink water drawn from the PlayPump storage tank.
Water for All
Before a pump is installed, geologists make sure it won't reduce the water supply of another village. According to the PlayPump system's designers, in areas where installation is appropriate, a single pump can provide enough water for drinking, washing--and creating gardens--for a community of 2,500 people.