Although South Africa has made great strides toward providing clean water to people in rural areas, more than 7 million people are still without access. Millions must still carry the water great distances from community taps. Balanced carefully on their heads for the sometimes mile-long walk back to the village, the water is carefully rationed back home. Without it, life could not go on.

These days, however, the sight of women balancing water buckets is rare in this isolated village nestled in South Africa’s Malelane Mountains. Instead, villagers now roll the water in their “hippos,” a new design that has made the heavy task of transporting water less onerous task. The large rolling water buckets – called “hippo rollers” do not provide a long-term solution to the developing world problem of access to clean water. But for thousands of women across South Africa who spend much of their day hauling the clear, cool liquid, it’s a step in the right direction.

The innovative design allows water to be placed inside the “wheel” rather than carried above the wheel. The 90kg (200 pound) weight of water is borne on the ground resulting in an effective weight of just 10kg (22 pounds) on level ground. Children and the elderly can easily manage a full roller over most types of terrain. Extensive field tests over many years and various awards have proven the effectiveness of the Hippo Water Roller. Approximately five times the normal amount of water can now be collected in less time with far less effort.


  • Title: Hippo Roller
  • External Link: Hippo Roller - INDEX: Design to Improve Life® website
  • Sustainable Development Goals targeted: Gender Equality, Clean Water & Sanitation
  • INDEX: Award Cycle: 2005
  • INDEX: Award Category: Home
  • Driver(s) of Change: Drought, Entrepeneurship, Income Inequality
  • Designed By: Pettie Penzer, Johan Jonker
  • Country of Design : South Africa

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