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The PlayPump Water System uses the energy of children at play to operate a water pump. It is manufactured by the South African company Roundabout Outdoor. It operates in a similar way to a windmill-driven water pump.
There are more than 1800 PlayPump systems in sub-Saharan Africa, providing clean drinking water to more than one million impoverished people. On September 20, 2006, at the Clinton Global Initiative, First Lady Laura Bush announced a $16.4 million public-private partnership to install more PlayPump systems—the beginning of an effort to install 4,000 pumps to provide water to up to 10 million people in Africa by 2010. The announcement includes $10 million from the U.S. government, $5 million from the Case Foundation, and $1.4 million from The MCJ Foundation.
Roundabout Outdoor is a for profit organisation with a social mission, co-founded by Trevor Field and Playpumps International a non-profit organisation. In 2007 Playpump water system was nominated for the prestigious National Design Award. It is aimed at solving one of the most pressing problems of clean water in semi-urban and rural areas of Africa - Water.
By 2008 Field has succeeded in installing 1000 playpumps in 5 countries in Southern Africa and has an objective of installing 4000 Playpumps by 2010 in around 10 African countries.
The PlayPump water system is a like a playground merry-go-round attached to a water pump. The spinning motion pumps underground water into a 2,500-liter tank raised seven meters above ground. The water in the tank is easily dispensed by a tap valve. According to the manufacturer the pump can raise up to 1400 liters of water per hour from a depth of 40 meters. Excess water is diverted below ground again.
The storage tank has a four-sided advertising panel. Two sides are used to advertise products, thereby providing money for maintenance of the pump, and the other two sides are devoted to public health messages about topics like HIV/AIDS prevention. There are more than 1000 PlayPump systems in five countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The manufacturer claims that they provide clean drinking water to more than 1 million people.
The sub-Saharan region of Africa suffers from a lack of clean water unequal to any other region in the world and has the highest population of HIV and AIDS victims. The PlayPump offers not only clean water, but potentially life-saving messages that can help prevent the spread of the virus. The PlayPump won a World Bank Development Marketplace Award in 2000 for its effectiveness both at pumping water and communicating HIV/AIDS messages through billboards on the water towers.
Apart from the Geneva health benefits to the community of clean, easily accessible drinking water, and the recreation opportunities given the children, PlayPump systems allow children to spend more time in school (instead of hauling water pumped by their parents) and enable women who formerly had to transport large containers of water over great distances to spend more time at home or engaged in other activities that provide additional food or income to their families.
There have been comments that at $14 000 they are more expensive than traditional pumps, but this cost covers not only the equipment, but also visiting the site to ensure the school understands and accepts a PlayPump, the testing of the borehole water to make sure it is sustainable and the water is sent to a recognized laboratory to make sure it is fit for human consumption. The installation is carried out by trained installers and the cost of getting the equipment to the site is covered in the cost. All spare parts are supplied free of charge.
The Guardian Newspaper calculated that children would have to “play” for 27 hours every day to meet PlayPumps’ stated targets of providing 2,500 people per pump with their daily water needs. This is based on WHO who state that 25 liters per person per day is needed. The PlayPump just supplies drinking water of 2 liters, per child, per day.
In June 2010, PBS's FRONTLINE/World aired an update about the failure of PlayPumps, particularly in areas of Mozambique. Many older women, who were not consulted prior to the installation of the PlayPumps, found operating the PlayPumps to be difficult, especially when there were few children around. PlayPumps were also breaking down, with no way for villagers to make the expensive necessary repairs. A comprehensive report about these failures was released by UNICEF in 2007.
Organizations promoting play pumps
Roundabout Outdoor is a company that manufactures, installs, and maintains PlayPump water systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Roundabout Water Solutions is a nonprofit that raises the funds to donate PlayPump water systems to African communities and schools. Roundabout Outdoor collaborates with Roundabout Water Solutions a South African NGO and Public Benefit Organizations to provide PlayPump systems to communities and schools in need of clean drinking water.
The One Foundation continues to raise money for playpumps through sales of bottled water.
- Empower Playgrounds
- Blood:Water Mission
- Water privatisation in South Africa
- Water scarcity in Africa
- Playpumps International and the PlayPump water system. Kids play. Water Pumps! :: PlayPumps International
- Case Foundation Partnership
- Africa's not-so-magic roundabout | Andrew Chambers | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
- FRONTLINE/World | Southern Africa: Troubled Water | Synopsis And Video | PBS
- Homepage | One Difference
- Roundabout Water Solutions
- One Water -- official One Water site* Why pumping water is child's play (2005-04-25) -- BBC News article
- The Play Pump: Turning water into child's play (2004-10-24) -- article with streaming video
- Lawrences Roundabout Well Appeal -- Roundabout PlayPump Charity
- 2D -- official Two Distribute site
- African Well Fund
- Trevor Field PlayPumps International | Black and White -- Interview with Trevor Field of PlayPumps International, discussing the product.*