Water is an immediate, fundamental need for human survival, but one in six people worldwide don’t have immediate access to water resources, particularly in arid regions of southern Africa. The HippoRoller is a deceptively efficient water carrier with the potential to offer huge health, economic, and social benefits to developing communities.
The HippoRoller is a heavy-duty plastic drum that can be filled upright, then sealed and rolled like a steamroller across rough terrain. The 24-gallon (90L) tank weighs 200 pounds when full, but the rolling drum has a functional weight of just 22 pounds, so virtually anyone can use it. The current design has been tweaked to ease shipping and transportation of the carriers, which are manufactured in Johannesburg, South Africa. They are distributed mainly by local NGOs to communities throughout southern Africa, along with training on water purification and sanitation.
The projected lifespan of a HippoRoller is five to seven years, but some of the original models from over 10 years ago are still going strong. And a single HippoRoller can hold a day’s water for an entire family of five, which translates into an immense impact from just one carrier.
The product itself is an efficient and clever design solution to a unique problem, but the benefits are potentially much broader. The HippoRoller website states:
“The daily burden of water collection undermines productivity, limits educational opportunities and traps households in poverty. The Hippo Water Roller is one of the few strategies that focuses specifically on reducing the social, economic and health consequences of carrying heavy loads of water over long distances.”
First, by greatly reducing the amount of time needed to obtain water, the HippoRoller allows users the freedom for more productive activities like school and farming. And second, beyond fulfilling the direct survival need of water, there are other equally important advantages to help a population remain healthy, and thus more productive and self-sufficient.The HippoRoller helps users avoid disabling injuries from hauling heavy buckets over rough terrain, and the food-grade construction is far safer than common alternatives like converted fuel cans.