Water carrying methods

     In many places around the world, piped supply of drinking water or motorised vehicles for its transport are not available. Water must be physically carried by humans and the most common means of transportation are buckets, wheelbarrows, and animal-drawn carts. Carrying domestic water from the source usually requires physical loading which may imply health consequences. For instance, for children are concerned, such regular physical stress can result in early degenerative changes in bones and soft tissues. Walking long distances is also time-consuming and may prevent children from going to school. impeding their social and economic development.

What are we doing to ease the non-mechanised carrying of domestic water?
This text is not only a brief review of the classic ways of carrying domestic water but also addresses some of the more recent technologies. W
e focus on human and animal powered transportation, and exclude gravity or mechanised technologies. We also leave out water collection and fetching instruments, and of course local water vendors, as a means to bring water to households.

Based on the challenges faced when using traditional technologies, we selected the following criteria:

Quantity of water transported
Assuming that we are responding to basic water needs (consumption and hygiene) the minimum volume per trip should be around 20L per person per day.

Safe transport and storage

The container keeps water safe from contamination during 
return transport and allows for hygienic storage at the household.

Water Spilling

The technology and container component preserve the volume of water carried and prevents it from spilling or evaporating during transportation and storage.

Adaptability to difficult terrain

Water can be transported through 
difficult terrain.

Container weight

The technology allows water to be loaded and carried without the risk of 
long-term physical injury.

The traditional ways


Buckets or jars

Open containers that are often carried on the head, on the back or by hand.

Animal-drawn cart

Wheeled carts drawn by a domestic animal such as donkeys, horses, and cows. Protection of water from contamination would depend on the type of container used.



Hand-propelled vehicles used for conveying a load, designed to be pushed and guided by a single person using two handles at one end, and supported by a wheel or wheels at the other. Healthy and hygienic transportation is only ensured if water is in safely closed containers.


More recent and innovative ways

Thanks to the work of researchers, engineers, social workers and communities, innovative technologies of carrying water have been developed. Some of these devices are already used in different regions around the world and has been accepted by local communities. The main improvements and achievements are time savings, the reduction of physical effort and suffering, the prevention of spilling water and moving on tough terrain, as well as the improvement of health and hygiene.

Pulled or pushed instruments



A donut-shaped plastic container made of durable plastic material, fitted with a central hole, through which a rope is tied in order to pull or roll the drum over long distances and most type of terrain. It can contain up to 50 litres.


45 litres capacity rolling container designed with a wide mouth that can open to facilitate pouring and cleaning, as well as a cap-in-cap system to keeps water clean.


Hippo Water Roller

Water tank that can be pushed or pulled depending on gradients and type of terrain. Its tank can contain up to 90 litres and can be purchased with a special cap that eases the dispensing of  water, connects to filters, and be used for irrigation.



Cart on wheels designed with structures to keep water containers vertical to avoid spilling. The cart is pulled from one end and can carry 20 litres of water. The containers used must be properly closed to prevent water contamination. 

Loaded containers



Backpack designed to carry about 20 litres of water and equipped with a removable liner, which can be sanitised through exposure to sunlight. It also includes a spout for dispensing water and a resistant outer shell.



Water carrying device that can be used in a variety of ways. It can be worn around the shoulders, neck, or torso, or be slung across the back or on the head, depending on the social and contextual setting. It can also be divided into smaller containers.

In summary, there is no perfect solution. Rolling technologies present many advantages but they are definitely not adapted to those who need to walk up stairs or on very steep slopes. Also, loaded containers will inevitably have consequences for the health of the carrier.


Useful links:



Published on 2014-11-06 20:28:36

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