Sunday, October 25, 2009

PlayPump Water System

Location: Southern Africa

Years: 1989-present

Developer: Ronnie Stuiver

Manufacturer: Roundabout Outdoor, South Africa

Cost: $8500, including maintenance (advertising on the tank reduces the cost)

Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises, p.283

The PlayPump was designed to bring clean water to South Africa’s rural communities. Children, who are often responsible for water collection, spin on the roundabout, forcing 318 gallons of water per hour from 130 feet below ground into a 568-gallon storage tank, tapping enough water to meet the daily household needs of a small community. The PlayPump has been installed in rural villages and primary schools where kids can easily access the fun, all the while pumping clean, potable water from underground. A few hundred yards away, a spigot supplies fresh water for the whole community. The water is then used for drinking, cooking, sanitation and even growing vegetables.

PlayPumps come with 10 years of guaranteed maintenance supported by the advertising space on each water tank. Two of the four panels are sold to local advertisers promoting only products and services appropriate for primary school audiences. The other two panels are reserved for public service announcements. These provide information on hygiene, HIV, AIDS, and other health-related issues.

The implications of bringing fresh water into a community go far beyond drinking and sanitation. Many women and girls in rural Africa can walk for hours each day to fetch water passing through vulnerable and unsafe regions. A local pump allows them to stay home and care for younger children, work a job, attend school, grow vegetables or build a business. This opens up immense opportunities for women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve their greater potential. Fresh water also means that it doesn’t need to be boiled first, which drains precious resources such as gas or firewood and degrades the environment. Families with access to clean water are also much more able to achieve self-sufficiency by growing their own produce and maintaining local businesses. The PlayPump system has created dozens of jobs locally and continues to spawn social and economic development

The PlayPump system has introduced positive play activities in places where many schools not only lacked clean water, but also toys or playgrounds. At Regiment Basic Primary School in Lusaka, Zambia a vegetable garden is now also in the works. Produce from the garden is sent home with the children most in need. In time, the school hopes to sell surplus vegetables in the community so they can provide books and supplies to students who can’t afford them.

So far, over 1,000 PlayPumps have been instilled in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia. PlayPump International plans to bring that number up to 4,000 by 2010, supplying as many as 10 million people with fresh water and a fresh start.

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