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Reflections on Integrated Water Resource Management

William J. Cosgrove
President, World Water Council
Water was the primeval substance of Creation.
Through water God vanquished chaos.
All cultures have talked of the gods and goddesses of the seas and rivers: the water
nymphs, mermaids, and sirens of the sea.
Water comes out of the earth as a spring, moves as a river, remains stationary as a lake.
It is the sea in its eternal serenity and endless movement.
It transforms into ice and steam.
It moves upward through evaporation and downward as rain, snow or hail.
Water is soft, but stronger than stone. It creates shapes: valleys, coasts, and grottoes.
Water frightens, threatens, injures and destroys people and their facilities by means of
floods, storms, tides and hail.
Without water there is no life1.
These few words translated from the German poet Bhme remind us that water permeates
and is the source of all life in Nature, including that of the human species.
1 Inspired

by Bhme 1988; as quoted (translated from German) in World in Transition: Ways toward
sustainable management of freshwater resources. German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)

Civilisation has made water its mainspring. Human societies have throughout history
found new means to secure availability of water where they settled. They have devised
ingenious methods to harvest, transport, and store rainwater, spring water, groundwater,
and even air moisture. They dug canals and drains and constructed dikes and earthen
dams in order to either get rid of excess water or bring water to parched fields. These first
attempts to manage drainage and irrigation water, no matter how feeble or elementary,
marked a revolutionary shift in the way people interacted with water. We now use it to
provide our food, our energy, transportation, and practically all of our manufactured
The quantity of freshwater has been fixed since the beginning of time on earth. It is
approximately 45,000 cubic kilometres. Humans use less than 10% of this. So why has
the availability and management of water become a major concern?
Why Worry about Water?
Consider first availability. Of global water resources, a large fraction is available where
human demands are small, such as in the Amazon basin and parts of Canada and Alaska.
In some heavily populated regions, rainfall and water resource availability is low. Even
though people use only a small fraction of renewable water resources globally, this
fraction is much higher -- up to 8090% -- in many arid and semiarid river basins.
Rainfall and river runoffs often occur in large amounts during very short periods, such as
during the monsoon periods in Asia, and are not available for human use unless stored in
aquifers, reservoirs, or tanks. In many river basins a large amount of water is available on
average over the year. However its unequal temporal distribution means that
infrastructure is required to protect people from it and to store it for later use, with
considerable social and environmental impacts. Studies of climate change indicate that
the frequency and intensity of such extreme events will be increasing.
Meanwhile, what has been happening on the demand side? The evolution of man as a
species is relatively new to the planet in geological terms. Our impact on the surrounding

environment probably was not significantly different from that of other species until
about 10,000 years ago when we developed tools, learned that we could cultivate our own
food instead of just gathering it, and began migrating long distances. Until a century ago,
with a few local exceptions, our behaviour continued to have little impact on the
environment. This situation changed drastically in the past century. During that period the
worlds population more than tripled, while water use for human purposes placed
unprecedented demands on natural resources to provide sustenance and shelter. At the
same time, we developed new processes to produce goods and services that are perceived
to improve the quality of life. Japan would require several times its available water
resources to maintain its current standard of living.
Human activity is having another impact on water resources. Rapidly growing cities,
burgeoning industries, the rapidly rising use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals in
agriculture and health care, and water use in the production of energy have undermined
the quality of many rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Major investments in wastewater
treatment and cleaner production have gradually restored the recreational and
environmental value of water in some parts of the world. While even basic data on water
quality are not available on a global scale, we may be sure that on the whole water quality
is deteriorating at an increasing rate. Increasingly complex pollutants are being carried by
water and accumulating in river, lake and ocean beds, in groundwater and in the soil. We
do not know what their impact will be.
All that I have described relates to the activity of one species of life on earth. But water
not used by humans generally does not flow to the sea unused. It is used in myriad ways
by aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems - forests, lakes, wetlands, coastal lagoons - and is
essential to their well being. Moreover, these same ecosystems purify and store water for
humans and provide many humans with food and livelihoods. We are not sure how much
water must remain in our ecosystems to maintain them, but indications are that we are
approaching the limits of how much we can divert. We have surpassed that in many
With current trends, human demands will continue to increase to satisfy the lifesustaining
needs of the still growing global population and to improve the quality of life
for all. With current water management practices, such development is not sustainable.
Learning from History
As we look for solutions for the future it can be useful to examine our past for lessons.
The organisation of society has evolved as well over these past millennia. It started with
the extended family, grew through communities and villages and cities to groupings of
these to form nation states. Over the years empires were created through dominance of
the more powerful and then faded to be replaced by others. In the last century we began
looking to world government to ensure cooperation.
Water management evolved in parallel. Early on people from neighbouring villages made
deals and mutual support pacts with their neighbours. This included co-operating to
repair a breached embankment or dig a canal. They suffered equally from flood disasters,
and went hungry when droughts ruined their crops. Sharing grain and other foodstuffs in
regional networks, using boats or donkeys whenever available, was a successful
mechanism to buffer local communities against food shortages.
To-day nearly half of the human population lives in cities. Water has challenged human
inventiveness. River regulation, dam construction, irrigation facilities, sewer systems, and

shipbuilding have been the result. Conflict over water management led to laws. These
began with water use regulation in the cities of antiquity. To-day we are approaching
domestic and international regulation of all water on earth. This evolutionary
development, which was not linear, gradual, or universal, marks a major transformation
in the way societies manage their water resources.
The human species continues to demonstrate its distinctiveness - dare I say superiority?
Increasingly we find ways to transform the natural resources of the planet to meet not
only our basic life-sustaining needs of food and water, but to improve the quality of our
human existence. We continuously seek to improve our physical comfort and to satisfy
our intellectual, cultural and social needs. Ultimately we seek security of this way of life.
With to-day's global communications systems, everyone on the planet is aware of the
quality of life of those who are perceived to have the most and the best. This has become
the expectation of all.
It was exactly five years ago this week that Prof. Frank Rijsberman and I began to write
the fourth and final version of the World Water Vision. We did our best to balance the
often-opposing viewpoints and to incorporate the many geographic and sub-sector visions
that had been developed in a consultative process involving thousands of people. Those
who participated in the Vision process were asked to describe the world they would like
to have in 2025.
They envisioned a world in 2025 in which almost every woman and man; girl and boy in
the worlds cities, towns, and villages will enjoy safe and adequate water and sanitation
and have enough food to meet their nutritional requirements. It would be a healthy world
- for them, and for all species that inhabit the Earth with them.
This sounds very modest, does it not? One could almost say that it is a statement of
fulfillment of basic needs. Some would even argue that humans have a "right" to what is
described in this Vision. Surely, lack of water would not be a constraint on achieving this
minimal standard? It need not be. But scenarios constructed during the Vision exercise
showed clearly that it would be if we continue "business as usual". The Vision report,
following its analysis, concluded that there is a water crisis, not a crisis caused by a
shortage of water, but rather by its bad management. We are threatening our water
resources with bad institutions, bad governance, bad incentives, and bad allocation of
Vision participants didnt just describe a dream world, but a Vision based on measures
that could be taken to make it happen. They said that the Vision could be reached if the
worlds leaders accept that there is a spreading water crisis. They assumed this would
happen as a result of increasing public awareness of the issues, and through respect for
commitments that would be made at the Second World Water Forum in The Hague
following recommendations of the World Water Commission.
They saw that it would be achieved in a world where people at the local level work
closely with governments and non-governmental organisations. Together, using science
of the knowledge society, they would manage water resources efficiently to provide
services to meet everybodys basic needs in a sustainable manner. The emphasis would
be on sustainable development and on research and development of technologies in the
poorest countries to meet their particular needs. Through closing the yield gap, raising
productivity, lower population growth, and more concern about the environment, the food

deficit in low-income countries would be reduced while water scarcity would be limited.
Communities and governments would benefit in terms of economic development as well
as by improved health of humans and ecosystems.
Let me be clear about one thing. The Vision cannot be achieved without accelerated
investment in water infrastructure and services. At the same time, the key to achieving
the Vision is a change in values and behaviour. A scenario based on water use efficiency,
higher technology and economics would not be enough to achieve the Vision.
You will remember that the Vision was one of satisfaction of basic needs for all. How
much more than this are we aiming for? And why? Recent studies have clearly
demonstrated that the world's natural resources cannot support a world population living
in the same style as the populations of to-day's advanced economies. Yet as I noted
earlier, global communications tend to set this as the standard. I submit that it is clear that
the challenge is not one of only better managing water resources, but also of managing
ourselves and our expectations.
Behavioural change takes time. Integrated water resources management including
behavioural change will take time. It will often be a matter of trial and error. It cannot be
achieved without involving all of the stakeholders. At all levels - community, basin,

national and international - people

Irrigation - History for Kids!
Often people farm in a place where enough rain falls during the year (and at the right
times) to water the plants just with rainfall. Farmers don't have to worry about the plants
getting enough rain. That's called "dry farming" because the farmers don't have to carry
water to the plants.
But in other places, like Egypt or the Arabian peninsula, it hardly rains at all. Farmers
can't rely just on the rainfall to water their crops. They have to find some way of getting
water from the river to their fields. That's called "wet farming," and the way they get
water from the river is called "irrigation."
There are lots of different ways to get water from the river to the fields. One way is just
to carry it yourself in buckets, and plenty of people irrigated this way in the ancient and
medieval periods (and plenty of people still do today). But it's very hard work carrying
water in buckets, and you can't carry very much even if you work very hard. Even a
donkey or an ox can't carry enough water to irrigate big fields.
The women in the video are pulling water up from the river to their irrigation canal with
ropes. Hanging the bucket between two ropes lets the women work together. But it's still
hard tiring work
What is a Canal?

Canals are man-made channels that are used to transport water as well as people and things. Canals used to
transport water are called aqueducts or irrigation canals. Canals used to transport people and things are known as

waterway canals. The Mesopotamians and Ancient Egyptians built the first canals around 4000 BC. And while these
early channels were used to irrigate crops, the transport of people and goods followed quickly. In fact, the Ancient
Egyptians built more than 80 waterway canals, as much as 100 miles long, and connected the Nile to the Red Sea by
500 BC. Ho hum? Hardly. Canals remain important means of transport 6000 years later. They provide safe transit
routes and can significantly reduce the length of a trip.

About the same time as the first Pharaohs were coming to power in Egypt, around 3100 BC, a
group of people known as the Sumerians were living in the area between the Tigris and the
Euphrates rivers, in West Asia (modern Iraq). The Sumerians themselves believed that they had
come to the Euphrates from somewhere else, probably in boats from the Persian Gulf, and
archaeology shows that it is true that their first cities were near the Persian Gulf, though they later
spread out northward. But most people today think the Sumerians were actually native to Iraq.
To their east, in modern Iran, the Sumerians had the people of Elam (the Elamites), who they
both traded with and fought with, at different times. To their west, the Sumerians had
the Amorites, who spoke a Semitic language(related to modern Hebrew and Arabic).
The Sumerians seems to have begun to use writing by around 3000 BC, which allows us to know
more about them, though we still can't really read their earliest writing. The Sumerians also
used bronze. Sumer may be the first place where tin was added to copper to make bronze,
maybe because there is so little stone there for tools.
They built big temples, calledziggurats, and mud-brick wallsaround their cities. They began big
irrigation projects, digging canals and ditches to bring water from the Tigris and the Euphrates to
the land between them so people could grow food there. In this way more people could live in the
same amount of land.
The Sumerians told a story that all this happened "before the flood". In the Sumerian version
there were seven kings before the flood, who had seven wise men (or half-gods) who helped
them. The first of these wise men was Uanna-Adapa, whose name is Adam in the Bible. Then,
the Sumerian texts and the Bibleagree, the gods were angry with men and sent a great flood
which destroyed everything, and only a few men survived to rebuild. The Sumerian texts place
2900 BC.
Archaeologists have looked for evidence of this flood in Sumer, and although it does not appear
everywhere, it does seem that there was a serious flood in one area about this time.

The Topic:

Easier - Mesopotamia is the Greek word meaning "land between the rivers."
Ancient civilization developed in this area because of the Tigris and the
Euphrates Rivers. The land was fertile, the nearby rivers provided water, and
settled farming was practiced. These early farming communities grew to
became independent city states. In addition to developing the first plows and
irrigation canals, Mesopotamia developed the first form of writing,
mathematics, astronomy, and complex architecture. Mesopotamians were
probably the first peoples to use the wheel.
Harder - Mesopotamia, called the "cradle of civilization", was the site of early
river valley settlement. Conditions in the area led to people constructing
permanent communities, practicing sustained farming methods, and evolving
from a hunter-gatherer society into agriculture communities. Housing evolved
into walled cities. Similar river valley civilizations soon followed in the Indus
and Nile River regions. Today Mesopotamia is part of Iraq. This river-valley
region was the site of a series of city-state kingdoms including Sumer, Babylon,
and Assyria, that thrived from about 5,000 B.C. to 500 B.C.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition | 2008 | 700+ words | Copyright
shaduf or shadoof , primitive device used to lift water from a well or stream for irrigation
purposes. Essentially the device consists of a long boom balanced across a horizontal
support from 8 to 10 ft (2.4-3 m) above the ground. The beam has a long, thin end and a
short, stubby end. From the long end a bucket or similar container is suspended, and on
the shorter end there is a counterweight. The operator pulls on a rope that lowers the long
end of the boom so that the bucket submerges and is filled with water. He then releases
the rope, allowing the counterweight to raise the bucket to the desired level, and then
empties the bucket and repeats the process. Shadufs can be used in a series where it is
desired to raise water to a height exceeding the range of a single one. It has been
suggested that the massive stones used in building the pyramids of Egypt were raised by
an ancient variant of this device.

How to Make an Ancient Egyptian Shaduf

By Samantha Lowe, eHow Contributor

updated June 01, 2011

Print this article

Creating a shaduf with children teaches them about

Egyptian agricultural history.
Flag this photo

While known for large-scale buildings, exotic jewelry and an impressive empire, Ancient Egypt was also renowned
for its technological advances. One such invention, the shaduf, was created for lifting and transporting water to
land. Using a simplified form of leverage, the shaduf allowed water to be raised above where it was removed from,
often a stream next to a field of crops. Creating the shaduf with children teaches them not only about this important
civilization but also about the basics of a lever.

Moderately Easy


Things You'll Need

Long pole
2 to 3 pounds fresh clay
Wooden sawhorse
Large PVC piping, cut to the length of the sawhorse
Duct tape
Large bucket
Thin rope
Tub of water (or a pool or pond)


Insert one end of the long pole into the clay. Mold the clay around the stick to ensure it sticks. The clay will serve
as the counterweight.

Place the PVC piping down the length of the sawhorse, lining up the ends with the ends of the sawhorse. Attach
the PVC pipe by wrapping duct tape around both ends and in the middle.

Cut the rope so it is half the length of the pole. Attach the rope to the end of the pole that does not have the clay
attached. Knot it securely.

Tie the other end of the rope to the bucket.

Center the pole perpendicularly across the sawhorse. Dip the bucket into the tub of water, and pull it back up by
gently placing your body weight near the clay.

Read more: How to Make an Ancient Egyptian Shaduf |

eHow.co.uk http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_8524928_make-ancient-egyptian-shaduf.html#ixzz1flA7CPY9

Kids building a Shaduf - YouTube

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw6Aek_Reow2 Sep 2010 - 31 sec - Uploaded by
0:31 0:3
Kids building a Shaduf ... Upgrade Now or More Info. close. 1946... Ancient
Egyptian Shadufby ...
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Tube well
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding
citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2009)

Borehole of a tube well. It's usually 100 or more feet deep.

The outlet of the tube well in a temporary reservoir on ground.

A tube well is a type of water well in which a long 100200 mm (5 to 8 inch) wide stainless steel tube
or pipe is bored into the underground aquifer. The lower end is fitted with a strainer, and a pump at the
top lifts water for irrigation. The required depth of the well depends on the depth of the water table.

A simple sketch of tube well.


1 Temporary reservoir
2 Drive mechanism
3 Casing

3.1 Screening

3.2 Sand/gravel packing

3.3 Ground Water Safety

4 External links



In the villages of India (especially Punjab) and Pakistan, a small reservoir of water is made at the outlet
of the tube well. This reservoir is used for bathing and recreational purposes, especially by children. In
most South Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc., taking a bath in the tube well is
popular as it allows people to avoid paying for their own electricity and water for a bath. Bathing in tube
well reservoirs can lead to illness.
Because children often urinate in the reservoir, the irrigation water may contain urine.



Man in a tube well reservoir.

Man in a tube well reservoir.

In the past, the pump was driven by large diesel engines. However, now electric motors are being
used, as they are a much cheaper source of power.

The tube well casing houses the inlet, cylinder, piston valves and rising main of a "down-the-hole" type
handpump. Casing to support the external surfaces of the borehole against collapse may be needed,
either temporarily or permanently, and is often made of PVC pipe, which is both cheap and inert.
Seepage down the tube well bore is prevented by the sanitary seal. Seepage from the ground above
the aquifer is excluded by the lengths of plain casing. Water to be pumped is admitted through slots in
the lower lengths of casing.
Water abstracted from aquifers in relatively soft ground usually contains sand or silt particles, which
are liable to cause rapid wear to pump valves and cylinders (and dissatisfaction among consumers).

Methods of preventing these particles from reaching the pump are of two general types, screening and
sand/gravel packing.

The drawing shows slots in the PVC casing which can be cut on site, using a hacksaw. More
elaborate, and far more compact, screens are available commercially; some can be bolted on to pump
inlets. Materials used include woven wire and man-made fabric; the latter can be wrapped around the
pump inlet assembly. Screening is nearly always needed in some form.


The drawing shows graded sand and gravel, which is placed from the top of the borehole. More
compact, pre-bonded, packs of sand and/or gravel are available commercially; some of these can also
form part of the pump inlet assembly. Sand and/or gravel packing is meant to eliminate particles from
the water before they reach the screen and would otherwise have passed through the screen.

Water Safety

The introduction of tube wells has led to major arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh. [citation needed]

This technical brief outlines the main types of human and animal water-lifting devices used for irrigation. A
separate technical brief is available on human powered water lifting for domestic and community water supply.
Human and animal powered water lifting devices have been traditionally used in irrigation in a number of places
around the world. Many of the technologies applied today have been used for thousands of years. Recent
developments have concentrated on increasing the efficiency of water lifting by combining ease of use with higher
water delivery.

Human physical power output is between 0.08 0.10 horsepower (hp) or 0.06 - 0.075 kW whereas traction
animals have a physical power output of between five and ten times this amount. For example, a pair of bullocks
has a physical power output of around 0.8 hp or 0.6 kW and can lift water from depths of 30 metres or more.
Hence, animals can pump more water in a shorter time, making irrigation more efficient and more productive.
This technical brief provides guidance on the key criteria that needs to be taken into account when selecting a
human or animal powered water lifter and discusses the applicability of the different types of water lifter to specific
local conditions.

Selection Criteria for Human- or Animal- Powered Water Lifters for Irrigation
Table 1 provides a summary of the technical, financial, economic, institutional and social questions that need to be
answered when selecting a human or animal powered lifting device for irrigation:

Table 1 : Checklist for Water Lifting Device Selection

(Download the full PDF version to see this table.)

Types of Human- and Animal-Powered Water Lifters

Human and Animal Powered Water Lifters can be split into two categories: those designed to lift surface water and
those designed to raise groundwater.

Surface Water is present in depressions, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and oceans.

Groundwater flows or seeps downward through the earth filling up the spaces between soil, sand
and rock to form a saturated zone. The upper surface of this saturated zone is called the water table. The
water table may be just below the surface like a spring or oasis or it may be over 100 metres down. The
only way to get access to this water is by digging and/or drilling.

Surface Water Lifters

Surface water lifters are generally the simplest form of human and animal water lifters because the water is readily
accessible and does not need to be raised more than a few metres.

Swing basket

The swing basket is made from cheap materials like woven bamboo strips, leather, or iron sheet to which four ropes
are attached. Two people hold the basket facing each other, they dip the basket into the surface water and the
basket is lifted by swinging it and emptied into an irrigation channel from which point the water flows to the fields.
This lifter can be used at depths of up to 1.2 m. Typical flow rates of 60 to 80 l/min are obtained at depths of 0.75

Advantages :

Simple, inexpensive technology which can be locally made and maintained.

Easy to operate by both adults and children.
Disadvantages :

Limited to lifts of less than 1.2 m.

Limited water yield 60-80 l/min suitable for small fields.
Low efficiency (10-15%) big human effort with significant water spillage.

Shadouf (Picottah)

The basic shadouf consists of a rope, pole, bucket and counterweight and is capable of lifting water up to 4 metres.
The counterweight can be just a heavy rock, but in the more advanced picottah design, one person guides the
bucket while the other acts as a moving counterweight (Figure 3). It is generally used for lifting water from unlined
wells, streams or ponds for irrigating small fields. Approximately 60 litres/ min can be lifted from a depth of 2 to 3

Advantages :

A relatively inexpensive traditional technology which can be locally made and maintained.
Easy to operate.
Relatively efficient (30-60%).
Disadvantages :

Limited to lifts of less than 4 m.

Limited water yield, 60 l/min suitable for small fields.


The dhone consists of a trough made from a wooden log or iron sheet; closed at one end and open at the other. The
trough is mounted on a suspended pivoted lever to produce a see-sawing gutter or dhone which operates at
relatively low lifts of up to 1.5 m. The trough is lowered into the water by exerting pressure using a rope or the foot
of the operator until the closed end is submerged in water. Upon releasing pressure the trough comes to its original
position and the water is delivered to the irrigation channel. Typical yields of 80-160 l/min can be obtained from
the dhone between 0.3-1.0 m.

Advantages :

A relatively inexpensive traditional technology which can be locally made and maintained.
Easy to operate .
Water yields of approximately 160 l/min for lifts of less than 1 m.
Disadvantages :

Limited to lifts of less than 1.5 m .

Low to medium efficiency (20-50%).

Paddle wheel (Chakram)

The paddle wheel is only suitable for low water lifts of up to 0.5 metres and it is mostly used in coastal regions to
irrigate paddy fields.
Small paddles are mounted on a horizontal shaft, which rotates in a close fitting concave trough, pushing water
upwards. The operator walks directly on the rim of the paddle wheel, turning it so that it continuously and steadily
scoops up water and deposits it into the irrigation channel.
The paddle wheel is not particularly efficient because a lot of water lifted flows back around the edges of the blades
and hence it is not used extensively. However it is simple to build and install in situations where a lot of water
needs to be lifted through a small height.
A paddle wheel with 12 blades can lift 300 litres/ min at depths of 0.5 metres.
Advantages :

Traditional technology which can be locally made and maintained.

Water yields of approximately 300 l/min for lifts of 0.5 m.
Disadvantages :

Limited to lifts of less than 0.5m.

Not very efficient (20-50%), lots of backflow.

Persian Wheel (Raha)

This device consists of an endless chain of buckets typically with an individual capacity of 8-15 litres mounted upon
a drum and submerged in water to the required depth. The drum is connected to a toothed wheel held in a vertical
plane by a long shaft usually kept below ground level. The vertical toothed wheel is geared with a large toothed
horizontal wheel connected to a horizontal beam. This beam is yoked to a pair of animals. The animals move in a
circle to turn the drum and raise the water. Water is released when the bucket reaches the top.
The average discharge rate from a Persian wheel is about 160-170 litres/min from a depth of 9m with one pair of
bullocks. The Persian wheel can be used to raise water from a depth of up to 20 m but its efficiency is reduced at
depths below 7.5 metres.

An animal-driven Persian wheel

Source: Water Pumping Devices

A variety of all-metal improved Persian wheels have been built. Their smaller diameter reduces the extra height the
water needs to be lifted before it is tipped out of the containers, and also reduces the well diameter that is
Advantages :

A relatively inexpensive traditional technology which can be locally made and maintained.
Easy to operate .
Lifts water up to 20 m but most efficient at depths of less than 7.5 m. Water yields of approximately
160-170 l/min for lifts of 9 m.
Medium efficiency (40-70%).
Disadvantages :

The design means that water is raised above the point of discharge before falling into the collection
Animals need to be maintained all year even when irrigation is not necessary.

Archimedean screw

The Archimedean screw consists of a helical screw mounted on a spindle which is rotated inside a wooden or
metallic cylinder. One end of the cylinder is placed at an angle of 30 degrees and submerged in the surface water
source. When the handle is turned water is trapped in the cavities and raised to the level of the irrigation channel
as shown in Figure 7. Although this design looks quite complicated, it is fairly easy to build using local materials
and is readily transportable. It can also be adapted to be driven by animals as shown in Figure 8. The Archimedean
screw typically raises water from depths of 0.2 - 1.0 metres at a rate of 250-500 litres/ min.
Advantages :

A relatively inexpensive traditional technology which can be locally made and maintained.
Transportable and easy to operate.
Low to Medium efficiency (30-60%).
Water Delivery of 250-500 l/min for lifts of 0.2-1.0 m.
Disadvantages :

Limited to lifts of up to 1.2 m.

Groundwater Lifters
The following section presents the main types of human and animal powered devices used for lifting water from
shallow and deep wells for irrigation purposes.

Rope and Bucket (Mohte, Charsa, Pur)

The simplest and cheapest method of lifting groundwater remains a rope and bucket in a wide, shallow well. This
type of well can operate up to a depth of 100 metres, although they rarely exceed 45 metres. The rope and bucket
lifter can be operated by humans or animals. Human operated rope and bucket lifters typically raise 10-15
litres/min from depths of 10-15 metres whereas an animal water lifter can raise 150 litres/ min from 15 metres. In
the animal driven rope and bucket lifter, the rope attached to the bucket is passed over a pulley and fixed to the
animal. The animal is driven down on an earthen ramp sloped at an angle of 5-10 degrees in order to lift the water.

A self-emptying container or mohte can be used in place of the bucket as shown in Figure 8. The system consists of
a leather container, shaped like a funnel. The container can typically hold between 100 to 150 litres. This
arrangement can discharge about 130 litres/ min at depths of up to 9 metres.

The rope and bucket lifter can also be adapted to include two buckets which are raised and lowered alternately. In
this case the pulling animal moves in a circular path and with the help of central rotating lever, rope and pulley
arrangement the buckets move up and down. Each bucket has a carrying capacity of up to 70 litres. The buckets
have a hinged flap at the bottom, which acts as a valve. Guide rods are provided in the well to control the
movement of the buckets. The buckets are automatically filled and emptied during operation. This device can lift
about 230 litres /min from depths of up to 5 metres.

Advantages :

Simple technology which is inexpensive to build and maintain.

Can be operated at depths of up to 100 m.
Water Delivery from Animal Operated Rope and Bucket Water Lifter of over 200 l/min for double
bucket system.
Disadvantages :

Water Delivery from Human Operated Rope and Bucket Water Lifter is limited to 15 l/min.
Animals need to be maintained all year even when irrigation is not necessary.
Relatively low efficiency for traditional human and animal operated designs (10-40%).

Shallow-Well Piston Pump

A reciprocating suction pump has a plunger or piston which moves up and down in a two-valve closed cylinder. As
the plunger moves upward it forces water out through the outlet valve and at the same time draws water into the
cylinder through the inlet valve. Moving the plunger down brings it back to its starting position.

The reciprocating suction pump has the pump cylinder situated above ground or near the surface. Pulling up the
plunger lowers the atmospheric pressure in the cylinder (creates suction) causing the atmospheric pressure outside
the cylinder to push the water upwards. The main limitation of this pumping method is that the atmospheric
pressure difference between the inside and outside of the cylinder is only large enough to raise water up to a
maximum of 7m from the water table.
A large piston diameter will give water delivery of 24-36 litres/min at a depth of 7 metres. Most designs have a
maximum usage of around 50 people/day, which makes them less appropriate for irrigation purposes than for
household water supply.
Advantages :

Relatively simple maintenance (main pump components positioned above ground).

Large piston diameter gives water delivery of 24-36 litres/min at 7 m depth.
Medium to high efficiency (60-85%).
Disadvantages :

More expensive than most basic / traditional irrigation methods.

Limited to wells of less than 7 metres in depth

Treadle pump
A type of suction pump designed to lift water from a depth of 7 metres or less. The treadle pump has a lever pushed
by the foot to drive the pump. Because leg muscles are stronger than arm muscles, this design is less tiring to use
than other human powered water lifters. Most of the parts can be manufactured locally hence the treadle pump is
relatively simple and inexpensive to build. The treadle pump can lift up to 100 litres/ min at depths of around 4 m.

The introduction of the treadle pump for irrigation has been shown to have a positive impact on household income.
In Bangladesh, a simple treadle pump costs around US$20 but this investment allows families to generate US$100
additional income annually. In Africa where treadle pumps cost between US$50-80 additional income rises to
between US$200 500 each year.
Advantages :

Simple and inexpensive construction.

Less intensive operation (foot-operated).
Maintenance uses local skills and materials.
Water delivery of up to 100 litres/min at 4 metres depth.
Use leads to generation of US$100-500 additional income per year for rural households in Africa and
Disadvantages :

Limited to wells of less than 7 metres in depth.

The rower pump is a simpler and cheaper version of the traditional reciprocating suction pump. The pump is set at
an angle of 30? and water is lifted through a rowing action. The long piston stroke ensures fast water delivery of up
to 90 litres/min at 4 m depth.

Its simple design means it can be easily manufactured and maintained using locally available skills and materials.


Cheaper construction than most reciprocating suction and lift pumps

Maintenance using local skills and materials.
Long piston stroke gives water delivery of up to 90 litres/min at 4 metres depth.
Disadvantages :

Limited to wells of less than 7 metres in depth.

Chain / Rope and Washer Pump (Pater noster)

These pumps have been used in China and Europe for many centuries. The pump consists of an endless chain or
rope on which washers are mounted at intervals. The endless chain usually passes over two drums. The upper
drum is above the top of well to which axle and handle is attached for operation. The chain with disc passes
through a pipe which extends downward from the top of well to about 0.6 to 0.9m below the surface of water. As
the chain rotates the discs trap the water in the pipe and carry it to the surface where it is discharged in a trough.

Although in theory it is possible to construct a vertical chain and washer pump to raise water to any height, most
do not exceed 35 metres. At this depth the average yield is calculated as 10 litres/ min. However, rope pumps more
commonly operate at depths of up to 10 m with a water yield of 40 litres/ min. The rope pump can be adapted to be
operated by a horse and will raise 60 litres/min from a 20 m well.
Chain/Rope and washer pumps require less maintenance than other equivalent pumps. Their simple design means
that repairs can often be done by users and require few spare parts. Models can use parts that incorporate
commonly available materials such as PVC pipe, rope, and old car parts.
The main disadvantage of this type of pump for irrigation is that since this is not a pressurised system it may take
time to receive water from the well with the water falling back to the level of the bottom of the well when not in use.
A variation of this design is called the "dragon-spine" pump, which lies at a shallow angle to the horizontal plane.
In this case, lifting height is rarely more than 6 metres. However, the design is very flexible and can easily be
adapted to circumstances.
Advantages :

Relatively cheap, and easy to manufacture (for wells down to 35 m rope pumps are five times cheaper
than piston lift pumps.)
Maintenance uses local skills and materials
Disadvantages :

Operation limited to depths of up to 35 m.

Initial water delivery is relatively slow at greater depths.
Frequent simple maintenance required
Medium to high efficiency (50-80%)

Comparison of human- and animal- surface water and groundwater lifting devices

Table 2 provides an assessment of the different technologies considered in this technical brief :

Table 2 : Comparison of different human- and animal-powered water-lifting devices

(Download the full PDF version to see this table.)

References and resources

Hand pumps: Human-powered water lifters

Technical Brief Practical Action

Handpumps Technology Note WaterAid

Low Lift Irrigation Pumps
Maintaining Handpumps
Treadle pumps
VLOM pumps

Technical Brief Waterline

Technical Brief Waterline

Technical Brief Practical Action

Technical Brief Waterline

How To Make and Use The Treadle Irrigation Pump

by Carl Bielenberg and Hugh Allen, Practical Action Publishing, 1995.
How to Make a Rope-and-Washer Pump by Robert Lambert, Practical Action Publishing,
Human and Animal-powered Water-lifting Devices

by W. K. Kennedy & T. A. Rolgers. Practical Action Publishing, 1985.

Smart Water Solutions: Examples of innovative low cost technologies for wells, pumps,

storage, irrigation and water treatment, Netherlands Water Partnership, 2006

The Treadle Pump: Manual Irrigation for Small Farmers in Bangladesh

A. S. M. Nazrul Islam, & Gunner Barnes, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service RDRS
Tools for Agriculture - a buyer's guide to appropriate equipment

Introduction by Iab Carruthers & Marc Rodriguez, Practical Action Publishing, 1992.
Water Lifting Devices, FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 43, PL Fraenkel, 1986
Water Pumping Devices - A Handbook (3rd Edition)
by Peter Fraenkel & Jeremy Thake, Practical Action Publishing, 2006.
Practical Action Publishing (formally ITDG Publishing)
Tel: +44 (0)1926 634501 http://www.DevelopmentBookshop.com
This technical brief was produced by Jane Olley for Practical Action, November 2008.

by Alastair Orr,