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Methods of transporting water - handcart?


Hi there,

Does anyone has any info on methods which are used for transporting water from the water point to the user's home, rather than water being carried on people's heads? This is in response to a supporter who has enquired about the potential for simple technologies like the handcart that is explained on this website:

Any response to this particular technology, or explanation of other technologies used would be really helpful.

Many thanks,



just to know: Why not use a pipe and a wind mill pump? or solar pump or even treadmill pump...

adolf gravatar imageadolf ( 2015-08-22 18:36:10 )

Adolf, thanks. Generally the contexts being referred to here are dispersed rural communities where there is little cost benefits in constructing more complex distribution systems. So generally there would be a pump of some sort with public taps or as int he case of handpumps, direct delivery at the borehole / well site. Certainly, as densities increase, the cost benefits shift and we are seeing more cases in rural areas where reticulated supplied make sense.

ErikH gravatar imageErikH ( 2015-08-24 00:20:54 )

9 Answers


Here is the answer that I sent in the end, based on your thoughts (thank you all). It also brings in the issue of demand and the cultural practice of water carrying...

'We're certainly very happy to see appropriate technologies being developed to ease water transport, and they're often used informally and developed locally – for example adapting bicycles to carry loads. We do generally find that those technologies with the greatest take-up come from within the community itself, because they are responding to a local demand.

An important factor to consider it is what is available in the local markets - the supply chain. Some technologies use parts that are not easily available should the technology break. Once they break there is no replacement option. Donkey carts, push carts, adapted bicycles etc. all exist in the local markets or can be built locally and have the additional advantage of being multi-purpose and of enabling of income generation.

With the AfriCart, it looks like it is designed to be produced by local carpenters, which is good. The question then is whether the demand is there – will families with low incomes prioritise buying an Africart over other needs?

This is closely tied to cultural factors – as we saw for ourselves in Malawi, women are expected to carry water and this is instilled in them from a very young age. There have been studies carried out that show that young women carrying heavy loads on their heads can suffer health problems as a result, for example this one. However, it is a big task to change people’s behaviour and cultural practices – and this change has to be led from within the community.

One of WaterAid’s key roles is to bring safe water closer to people’s homes, meaning that transportation is no longer such an issue. So, we only count users of water points if they are no more than 1.5km (just under a mile) from a water point. That’s about a 15 minute walk. Many are much closer, and 15 minutes should be the maximum. This helps to ease the burden.

As well as ease of access and appropriate technology choice, we address wider issues of quality, reliability, equity for excluded people, and political will. Our aim is that safe water moves up the priority list on a local, national and international scale. All these factors will help to create long-lasting, far-reaching change for people in the communities where we work.'


Nicely crafted.

Cristian Anton gravatar imageCristian Anton ( 2015-08-20 16:41:18 )
Rémi Kaupp

Hi Emily,

Transport (such as carts like that) has often been studied mostly in relation to solid waste management, and for agricultural / livelihoods development, less so for WASH. WEDC, Practical Action and Skat have done some work on low-tech transport, often on how to design carts and so on. Practical Action in particular has great resources that are worth exploring.

However I don't know of a study of what people tend to use for carrying / transporting water (there are studies like this one showing why carrying is really bad, though). It may be worth making this question public to have more answers.

We're certainly very happy to see appropriate technologies being developed to ease water transport, and they're often used informally (no specific examples in mind though).



Jerry cans strapped onto bicycles and donkeys are popular alternatives.


Hi Emily

There are a couple of things here:

The Hippo-Roller concept uses the water barrel as a wheel:

However, like many of these sorts of ideas, there is no documentation that I can find that gives a rigorous independent evaluation. Although I have suggested to the founder that he applies the TAF:

Hope that helps,



Hi Emily

Just adding to the comments from Rémi, Practical Action had, in the past, worked on simple transport approaches, some of this information is available at..... and

You will see a cart design in the link above and there was also a water carrying version of this, developed by Practical Action Sudan.

image description

In Kenya, Practical Action worked on a hand cart designed to carry a range various heavy items, including water containers, The carts were made of metal angle iron and thick wire mesh. They were often used for water carrying but also for fuel wood and crop harvesting from fields so the had multiple uses. The main requirement for the carts seemed to robustness as they were heavily used and the roads/tracks were not in good condition.

There is a technical brief by IT Transport that shows various wheel designs and a hand cart design used in Zimbabwe that is similar to the ones used in Kenya.


Sean, we have had the same extensive discussions with We have done an 18-month user experience assessment which has provided some interesting insights regarding the rolling barrels. They are indeed robust and particularly helpful for older users or partially disabled users, but really only on relatively flat ground. This is due to the overall weight of the barrels.

However, one of the biggest problems is not technology related at all, it is about what is available in the local markets - the supply chains. Most of these barrels reach users through charity programmes and although users like them to some extend (geography dependent) once they break there is no replacement option. Donkey carts, push carts, adapted bicycles etc. all exist in the local markets or can be built locally and have the additional advantage of being multi-purpose and and enabling of income generation.


A simple four-wheel rubber tire cart with sides can be an option on terrain not too hilly. I've seen these used in a small village north of Jakarta with good success. Holds 4 to 8 jerry cans, carries a siphon hose to fill small containers.


The article on the handcart is excellent, a basic handcart would be great for very many people. In hilly or rough terrain, a single wheel is worth considering (with 2 cans balanced on each side).. a variation on the tried and tested wheel-barrow, but with the centre of gravity of the weight closer to the wheel, enough weight to give control but avoid fatigue. For the wheel itself, a bicycle wheel would be great. An option to consider is to use the inner rims of old truck tyres , clamped together: very cheap and widely available, no puncture problem but simple bearing needed.... as used in making the rope-washer pump (see PumpAid).