Design story

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Can you survive without water?

You can survive without food for several weeks, because your body will gradually switch to using stored fat and protein to make its energy. But cut off your water supply and you’ll be dead within days. Water equals life: it’s as simple as that. Around two thirds of your body (as much as 75 percent if you’re a baby) is H2O. Even your bones, which you might think are completely solid, contain about 25 percent water. On average, we need 2.4 liters (0.6 gals) of water each day to keep ourselves healthy (though we don’t have to drink anything like that much—we get a lot of our water from inside foods). With water so important to our lives, it’s hardly surprising we like it clean, pure, and tasty. That’s one reason people spend so much money on water filters that can remove any harmful impurities.

How do they work?

Thanks largely to an unusual molecular structure, water is amazingly good at dissolving things. (We look at this in more detailed in our main article on water.) Sometimes that’s helpful: if you want to bust the dust from your jeans, simply throw them in your washing machine with some detergent and the water and soap will pull the muck away like a magnet. But there’s clearly a downside to this too. All of our water constantly circulates through the environment in what’s known as the water cycle. One minute it’s rushing through a river or drifting high in a cloud, the next it’s streaming from your faucet (tap), sitting in a glass on your table, or flushing down your toilet. How do you know the water you’re about to drink—with its brilliant ability to attract and dissolve dirt—hasn’t picked up all kinds of nasties on its journey through Earth and atmosphere? If you want to be sure, you can run it through a water filter.

Prototype - Application

A clean water pump must be a sustainable pump. Maintenance should be easily accomplished with a little training, and parts for the pump must be readily available at a local level.
Hand-powered pumps are used worldwide to deliver water from borehole wells. Drilling borehole wells and installing hand pumps has long been a low cost and reliable strategy for meeting the clean water needs of rural communities in developing countries.