Trevor Field of South Africa watched as a group of African women waited for a wind to provide power for a windmill-driven pump so they could get water. In rural areas in Africa with lack of access to electricity to pump water, Trevor saw the plight of women and young girls as they waited for windmill-driven pumps or traveled distances to get water for their families, which was often not clean water. Because young girls are tasked with getting water, they often have a disproportionate disadvantage for an education.1

With the mission in mind to try to help rural people have access to clean drinking water, Trevor discovered a solution at an agricultural fair where he observed a different water pumping system: one that was driven by a children's merry-go-round, also known as a roundabout. In 1989, the first PlayPump water system was installed, which are water pumps powered by the energy and play of children on a merry-go-round.2

These PlayPump water systems, which are basically windmills on their sides, don’t require waiting for the wind, but are generated by the motion of the merry-go-round as children push them. With the capability to produce up to 1,400 liters of water per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40 meters, they can be effective up to a depth of 100 meters.3 The water is stored in tanks that allow access to the water when needed and is tested to ensure that the water is fit for human consumption. Each borehole is tested to ensure it can sustain prolonged abstraction of water and the flow is sufficient to meet the needs of the community.4

The PlayPump water system includes an elevated water tank that has two billboards for commercial advertising and two billboards for health and educational messages. These billboards help pay for the pump's maintenance.5

Since 1989, over 1,800 PlayPump water systems have been installed in South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and other sub-Saharan African countries. Nonprofit organizations, such as Roundabout Water Solutions, PlayPumps International and others, have been dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by their fundraising efforts to provide easy access to clean drinking water through PlayPump water systems. These efforts in turn enhance public health while providing play equipment to millions across Africa.6

By providing clean drinking water to villages, the local schools have become more effective with healthy teachers and regular students, including an increase in girls who no longer had to miss school to procure water. Vegetable gardens are also cultivated, which has brought greater economic stability to the villages.7

  • 1. Murray, Ben. “Children's Merry-Go-Round Inspires Idea for Water Pump Systems in Africa.” TakePart. < > 27 Feb. 2011.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. “The PlayPump – Innovation and Inspiration Conspire to Solve Myriad Problems.” Good Thinking. < > 28 Jan. 2009.
  • 4. “Roundabout Water Solutions.” PlayPumps. < > 6 June 2011.
  • 5. “How PlayPumps Works.” Water for People. < > 27 May 2011.
  • 6. “About PlayPumps International.” Press Release from PlayPumps International. < > 28 Jan. 2009.
  • 7. Op cit., Murray, Ben.