Good Thinking

WaterWear backpack eases the strain of water transport

WaterWear backpack eases the s...
The WaterWear pack allows those in developing countries to more easily transport water
The WaterWear pack allows those in developing countries to more easily transport water
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The WaterWear pack allows those in developing countries to more easily transport water
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The WaterWear pack allows those in developing countries to more easily transport water
The WaterWear pack holds 20 liters (5.3 gal)
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The WaterWear pack holds 20 liters (5.3 gal)
The WaterWear pack features a protected spout on the back
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The WaterWear pack features a protected spout on the back
The WaterWear pack features adjustable straps
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The WaterWear pack features adjustable straps
The WaterWear pack is collapsible
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The WaterWear pack is collapsible
The WaterWear pack features an easy-to-fill roll top
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The WaterWear pack features an easy-to-fill roll top
The WaterWear pack reduces the strain of transporting water long distances
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The WaterWear pack reduces the strain of transporting water long distances
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For most of us, access to clean water is just a turn of the tap away, but in many developing countries women and children are often tasked with fetching water and carrying it considerable distances in containers - often on their heads. Aside from the strain this places on the neck and back, these containers can be discarded jerry cans and buckets that originally carried fuel, oils, pesticides, paints and other chemicals that you wouldn’t want mixed with your drinking water. The WaterWear is a collapsible backpack designed to overcome these problems.

The result of a partnership between Greif, a manufacturer of industrial packaging products, and Impact Economics, the WaterWear pack holds up to 20 liters (5.3 US gal) of water. While this is much less than the 75.7 liter (20 gal) capacity Hipporoller, the collapsible backpack form factor makes the WaterWear pack easier to store and transport over uneven terrain.

Constructed from lightweight and durable industrial grade woven polypropylene, it features adjustable straps, a base that allows it to stand on its own while being filled, and a roll top that makes it easy to remove the liner for cleaning. There is also a protected spout on the rear of the pack to keep the water clean for drinking and hand washing.

The WaterWear pack features a protected spout on the back
The WaterWear pack features a protected spout on the back

According to Greif, women and children in developing countries travel an average of 3.5 miles (5.6 km) a day collecting water and carrying it to their homes. With a design that allows it to be worn like a backpack, the WaterWear provides a faster and more ergonomic way to transport water, while also keeping it clean. There is also a 15-liter hybrid WaterWear pack that can be worn as a backpack or carried on the head. It is hoped that assembly and decoration of the packs and distribution and sales of liners could also provide business opportunities in communities in which they are used.

The WaterWear pack is collapsible
The WaterWear pack is collapsible

Aside from the obvious benefits for those in developing countries, the WaterWear packs can also be distributed quickly in the event of disasters. Some 2,000 WaterWear packs have already been distributed in Haiti as part of on-site field-testing and there are plans for wider distribution in developing countries in the future.

The Back the Pack initiative hopes to distribute 100,000 packs by September 3, 2012 and you can help them realize that goal by donating via the Back the Pack website.

The video below highlights the benefits of the WaterWear pack.

Back The Pack

Source: Greif via Co.Exist

View gallery - 7 images
22 comments
Todd Edelman
This sounds great, but while bringing in water supplies by pipe and pump is the obvious long-term solution, I wonder if the same amount of water could be transported with fewer backpacks and a lot of bicycles.
Layman
I can't honestly understand how is this helping the developing world. I think installing a pump and piping system would be a viable solution, because it eliminates back breaking labour. This is like saying " see you can continue carrying water on your backs, but use this product, it's less back breaking." And I believe, more than products, services are that they require.
Kuberkoos
This is not the first "good" solution for the water-carrying problem. Have seen several over the years. The problem is affordability. If you supply a whole village with these, most of the villagers will sell them or swop it for food, and continue carrying a bucket on their heads. Been there seen it happen repeatedly. Africa do not need solutions, they need someone to teach them how to solve their problems in a Africa-friendly , cost-effective way.
Allen Lumley
- - A little research of the literature will show that the Army's 10th Mountain Div. re-visited research on carrying loads 'on the head ' as compared to on the back w/ and w/out Tromp lines , all 3 times ( over nearly 80 yrs ) the Army determined that loads where carried on the head best , increasing amount of work done , material moved , the author should look for a bias in this piece !
Grunchy
I agree with the other posters, the ultimate solution for Africa is Democracy and the rule of law. The water back pack is just a stop-gap until the real solution happens. Actually that raises the question, just how hard is it to set up a Democratic government? It seems most of the work is already done and freely accessible, for example I can look up any Canadian law I want online at a moment's notice or download the whole shot and have an instant Parliamentary government. Obviously I'm being simplistic, but then again: what if it actually could be that simple?
L1ma
The reason for not having empty soda and mineral water containers sent out instead is ?. My recylers collect at least 3 from me every week, they also drop off containers on Chinese freighters full of Computer parts in Africa - Why not send intact empty's ?.
After all, if you cannot afford a clay pot to carry your water, how can you afford a nice modern backpack ?.
Sorry, articles like this only make me question human stupidity more than usual.
Ken Lowder
I hope that theses bags are available here in the states too. These would be great in an emergency too. But hey, I'm one of those crazy prepper people. As to fixing the problem by pipeline, needs unavaiable money, or bringing democracy, you need to wake up. Bring democracy to Iraq and afganistan has worked how well? Start with small solutions that will help, then you can deal with corrupt governments. As for them selling them for food, give thm food to may help, you cn only try.
JA Larson
1. Pumps/pipes/water treatment are unaffordable. These are villages with machetes.
2. If you look at the load carrying research, the answer is.... the wheel.
3. The first order of business at the tactical level is a taxonomy of what a successful paleo level village needs to be healthy. Giving them the internet sounds nice, but it's not the computer but the infrastructure that dooms the idea. Historically, the AID has given countries bulldozers, proving that bulldozers rust nicely sitting in the jungle. Bulldozers need supplies, fuel, roads, mechanics, etc.
4. So, what they really need are local skills and materials they can turn into local cottage industries (which create a skills/craftsmen class which creates marketable products which creates...). So, how can they make a water cart from local materials?
5. Giving them 21st century solutions just creates failure. Shipping food from the US means most of the budget is spent on shipping. Then cheap/free food destroys the local farm economy. And the free food is not nutritious and doesn't grow locally.
And so it goes.
Nic Meredith
Solutions are easy in an idealistic frame of mind, but if some of these people choose to use this resource, then it's a good thing. If some of them revert to the old ways, it means that they want to do that. If you will excuse the analogy, you can bring the horse to water, but you can't force it to drink!
The idea of piping in water is part of this solution. They pipe the water to a central point but because people live in their own villages and don't want to move house, they come to collect the water. Think of how far 4 miles is in reference to how far you go to get groceries in the suburbs! Would you move just to get closer to the grocery store and would you want a Safeway at the end of your street if you prefer to live in the country?
Africa's needs and solutions lie in its leadership. And leaders are the rarest of commodities and cannot be found by digging!
Adrian Akau
Piping water need not be too expensive if irrigation tubing is used. Here in the US, 500 feet of 1/2" black irrigation tubing costs about $50 or $.10/foot. I have been using 500 feet of it for a solar water heater and it has lasted for over 4 years without any problems.