The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

20 January 2008

Pedal power bringing water to people

“Global warming exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels has reached its tipping point. The need to find alternative energy sources and modes of transportation has never been greater. We must innovate.”

This was the rationale behind the Innovate or Die awards sponsored by bike firm Specialized and Google. The challenge was to invent and build machines that transform pedalling energy into new and useful purposes. Entries had to be submitted in a video format detailing the machine and describing its function and purpose. The aim of the competition was to inspire creative thinking and innovation whilst highlighting the efficiency and environmental benefits of cycling. 102 entries were submitted.

The winning entry was Aquaduct which transports water from source to home whilst using the pedal power also to filter the water. This is how they describe their product in their video:

1.1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water. Over 5,000 children die each day because of water-related diseases. Our solution is the Aquaduct. A pedal-powered vehicle that transports water and filters it while in motion. Often water sources are distant and women must devote hours of labour just to meet the basic needs of their families. Walking 3 miles or more is common. Travelling this distance via motorbike or truck consumes fuel and pollutes the air. Moreover a family of 4 needs a minimum of 20 gallons of water per day. Sanitizing this much water by boiling consumes precious resources and contributes to deforestation. The Aquaduct enables a person to get enough water for an entire family and clean it in one trip. The Aquaduct is composed of two tanks, a filter, a belt drive, a peristaltic pump and clutch. Once the rider arrives at the water source, she fills the large tank at the back of the vehicle with water. The cap is replaced and the rider can start home. As the rider pedals, the pump draws the water from the large tank through a filter and into a 2-gallon clean water tank. Upon arrival the clean-water tank is easily removed and taken inside the home for drinking and cooking needs. The closed container eliminates the contamination that currently occurs from storage in open containers. When more filtered water is needed, the clean water tank is reattached. Then the rider uses the clutch to relieve the tension in the belt and disengage the pedals from the wheels. She can now filter the next two gallons whilst stationary. The Aquaduct will allow families in the developing world to have daily access to clean water all by harnessing the energy of pedal power.

Additional water purification may be required to remove bacteria, viruses and dangerous chemicals, and it certainly will require a cycleable track or path for the vehicle can. But this could be the start of a great idea. Innovate… or die!

Innovate or Die:
See all 102 entries on video at:
See the winning Aquaduct pedal-powered mobile filtration system at:


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