Earth Day Challenge: A Better Way To Wrangle Water

How far do you have to go for a glass of clean water? Not very? Just go to a sink and turn on the faucet? We would venture to guess that is the case for most Hackaday readers. Maybe you even have a water softener, or a filter on your tap to make your drinking water even more palatable and free of heavy metal.

In Ethiopia and many other countries, people do not have access to clean, flowing water and must walk several kilometers to fetch it from somewhere that does. And they’re not doing this on paved roads, either — these women are cutting treacherous paths across mountains and through muddy, rocky terrain that make wheeled transport nearly impossible. How do you comfortably lug around 25 kg (~55 lbs) worth of sloshing water? You don’t, unless you have [Anteneh Gashaw]’s ingenious jerrycan.

As you can see in the video below, the current crop of jerrycans are just big plastic jugs that have to be carried on top of the head or the shoulder, both of which are bad for bodies. [Anteneh]’s can evenly distributes the weight by wrapping it completely around the person carrying it and suspending it from both shoulders like a beer-and-peanuts vendor’s carrying case. Basically, it’s a PVC inner tube with shoulder straps. Simple, cheap, and effective = absolute genius in our book. Ideally, everyone would have free access to clean water, both cold and hot. Until that time, [Anteneh]’s entry into our Earth Day Challenge is a great workaround that will no doubt save a lot of spines.

Potable water may be closer than you think. Build a portable potability predictor and you might not have to travel so far.

26 thoughts on “Earth Day Challenge: A Better Way To Wrangle Water

  1. I believe a common way to carry heavy objects (such as water cans) is to carry two of them, suspended by ropes from a board held across the shoulders (with some padding between board and shoulders). Obviously, the board is more comfortable if there is a cut-out part to allow for the neck.

    Probably not as comfortable as the method shown here, but usually quite easy to come up with.

    1. Depending on the weight, the method shown here would need some padding on the shoulders also, so that the straps do not hurt the shoulders.

      But I think some variation of the chinese wheelbarrow ( big wheel in the middle of the vehicle ) would make it easier to carry the weights involved, while being also not so hard to use in the bad paths mentioned.

    2. Ah, when the word “yoke” has left the language, and we must resort to a 14 word description, then we are truly 21st century folk. I remember carrying 40 kg (two 20L buckets) uphill from the dam to water pigs and chickens.

      As we add 1.6M to world population each week, how long will current water sources last? I finished a rural off-grid owner-build this week, with 118,000 L of rainwater tanks. No reliance on town water or rivers to flow. No sewerage connection. No electricity connection. Wood heating form on-farm forest. Still need wireless internet, though.

        1. Perhaps I should, but have to quickly renovate my town home for sale to pay for the new build, move 3/4 ton lathe, milling machine, and some woodworking machines out there, shift house, keep two gardens, fight problems with this weekend’s devuan beowulf install on a new intel NUC, cook, clean, …
          Good thing I’m retired. I could start by making some notes:

          I saved $6k for architect’s plans by drawing my own, which passed planning & building approval stages first go. Pushing rooms, windows, doors around on a screen took half a wet winter, but the extra thought gave much better use of morning and evening sun, as well as summer solar cutoff from equator-facing windows, and no solar panel shading – plus a western roof face to power aircon from PV as long as possible on a 43 C day, without resort to batteries.

          Pitfalls? Listen for a clunk as the bricklayer finishes the top of an internal masonry wall. Look up, and if the brick is under a truss, understand that they _must_ only be supported at the marked points, usually at the outer walls. Bending a truss over a midpoint breaks its back, wrecking its structural integrity.
          That’s a lot of grief for a moment’s oversight. Yeah, I heard the clunk.

          I’m in a moderate BAL19 (Bushfire Attack Level, 12.5, 19, 40, FZ) zone, where no building envelope gap over 3mm is permitted, and all doors and windows must have metal flywire screens. But the roof is metal decking with a long narrow gap between ridge capping and sheet. The roofing contractor would have omitted the “fire blanket”, a strip of rockwool insulation to block ember intrusion, if I hadn’t watched him and pulled him up.

          Quotes: The builder who erected the frame, cladding, and windows, quoted $5k for tiling, and he was already on site – very convenient. A tiler wanted only $2k. I did it myself, using a commercial tile levelling system – small plastic screw-together snap-off bits.

      1. I don’t think he’s entirely missing the point. If enough folks could pool together their time and resources, some kind of infrastructure could be developed to help them all. An example is helping to clear and smooth out the paths, or perhaps getting a bit of piping and a manual pump to help bring the water uphill. I think perhaps the main thing that is missing is hope and inspiration, which can be very difficult to come by when living in desperate situations. The movie “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” illustrates this.

    1. That’s 24 bottles in a tray, and 6 trays, so even with 500ml bottles that would be 72kg.
      And either the guy is real small or those bottles are bigger then 500ml.

      Good workout to walk up a mountain a few km with such a load.

  2. I hate to say it but that contraption looks like something invented by a guy that’s never had to haul water. Why is the fill port on the side instead of front or back? It’s unbalanced even (i presume) empty for the demonstration. Those straps look like they’d shear someone’s shoulders right off. And the tubes will swing all over the place while walking on uneven ground. How does it ride with a kid slung either on a woman’s back, front or side?

    1. Was about to leave a similar comment, If your climbing some treacherous mountain path then do you really want a 25kg pendulum surrounding you? Lose your balance for a second and that water is going to crash into you just as you correct yourself. Want to know the best way to carry a heavy load? Military’s around the world have been doing that research for ages, put it on the back and don’t let it shift around to much.

    2. Thank you for your comments. I thought it is obvious for most people why I made the fill Port on the side and that’s why I didn’t explain it in the details. For peoples who wish to carry one Anteneh’s Jerry Can they can use the handles attached to the straps and it will be hard to do that if the fill Port is in the way of the strap. Get it?
      And the swing problem you mentioned is a given, after site experiments I intend to add support strap in the side or I will invent another.
      The big point is you understand it’s general application.

  3. Nice job Anteneh. I would give this design a try. Don’t take to much of the comments to heart; glean a few morsels of design improvement and keep going. Most people around here have absolutely no idea of what the people of Ethiopia are going through. They think everyone can have everything we have everywhere which is simply not true except in the fantasies of a rich American mind.

      1. 1. My nearest neighbor is about 1km down the mountain, and is an old man that fell and broke some bones. So have spent several hours per week carting food and water, and chopping wood for his freaking 19th century stove during last three weeks.

        2. Spent several years as a member of Uncle Sam’s Gun Club, where we typically carried 25 to 40kg of stuff.

        Based on these experiences and empirical data from designers of load-carrying gear, I believe that this is a less than optimal way for a human to bear a relatively large load. I find your comment condescending and patronizing because it offers no empirical data or relevant experience.

  4. Not understanding this, 1# Where would the water carriers get these plumbing fittings from? #2 I feel that the inertia of that water, held quite close to the body, but not touching, would make carrying it over rough ground for any distance, quite awkward and tiring.

    A ‘normal’ yoke doesn’t carry the weights close to the body. The inertia of the load(s), on pendulums and at a distance from the carrier, ‘dampen down’ the movements of the carrier making it easier to carry. Conversely, a single load held close to the body doesn’t ‘fight’ the movements of the carrier. What do other people think?

  5. When I went interailing around Europe with my trusty Karrimor rucksack, the thing that made the weight bearable was the waist belt, that took >60% of the weight off the shoulders.

    With a waist mount your pelvis and legs take the load, and not so much your spine. Why not try that as an improvement?

  6. In the image of the girl with the red strap and the yellow can on her back, the weight is carried on her lower back, almost directly to her pelvis, and not to her spine. All the weight of this arrangement is carried for the length of the spine. It also has a higher surface area to volume ratio than the existing bottles, so more container weight is required for a weight of water.

    I feel like the original solutions weren’t tried to directly compare with the proposed solution and the proposed solution was not tried on uneven terrain.

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