Water Innovation

Our innovation makes more water and time available for education, household tasks and food production enabling people to transport up to 5 x more water to their homes and food gardens.

#1 Hippo Water Roller

Improving access to has never been this easy.

The Hippo Water Roller was developed in 1991 by two South Africans in response to the daily struggle of rural women and children across Africa to access safe, drinkable water.
The award-winning technology is a distinctive portable water innovation that enables rural communities to transport water more easily and in less time than with traditional methods.

Image credit: Conservation Fusion and Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP).


2016 Frost & Sullivan – African Rural Portable Water Solutions Product Leadership Award

2005 INDEX2005 Denmark – Top Nominee
1997 SABS Design Institute – Design for Development
1992 SABS – Cullinan Design Award

Designers: Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker, South Africa (1991)

Materials: Polyethylene (UV stabilized), Mild Steel (electroplated)

Dimensions: 90l / 24gal Drum – 50 x 50 x 65 cm, Cap – 135mm, Handle – 2 x 70 x 100 cm


The 90 litre Hippo Water Roller is a strong and durable barrel-shaped container equipped with a steel handle with which it can be pushed or pulled.
The design of the Hippo Water Roller allows water to be placed ‘inside the wheel’ so that the weight is borne on the ground and distributed over a wide rolling surface.

Effective & Efficient

The effective weight of the 90 kg drum is just 10 kg when pushed or rolled on level ground, making it very user friendly for women, children and the physically weak.

  • Carries 90 litres (5 x buckets)
  • Large opening for easy cleaning
  • Hygienic storage of water

Proven Durability

Specifically designed for daily use in tough rural conditions, including uneven surfaces, gravel roads and sharp stones. It has a long lifespan of 5 – 10 years.

  • Thick drum wall – no joints
  • UV-stabilised polyethylene
  • Strong electroplated steel handle


Its maintenance-free design requires no replacement parts and promotes continuous daily use in rural and economically poor communities.

  • Screw cap wears in – not out
  • No rubber seals which perish
  • No spare parts required

Broad Social Impact

The Hippo Water Roller is an appropriate technology widely accepted in many countries by communities where water infrastructure is either unreliable or totally non-existent. It was designed with an understanding that women and children are often responsible for water collection in rural communities.
By enabling more water to be transported concurrently, a daily burden becomes a task that can be completed a few times a week, enabling users to become more economically active. Its integration in rural communities has had a positive cultural impact as even men are proud to use it and help with water collection.

Image credit: Carlos Morgado Foundation – Fundação Carlos Morgado, Mozambique.

Immediate Benefits

The benefits enjoyed by the users are experienced immediately unlike many projects that require extensive time and money before results are seen.

  • Reduces suffering caused by heavy loads
  • Improves hygiene and health
  • Empowers women and children
  • More time for economic activities
  • More time for education
  • Makes the elderly less dependent
  • Improves morale and personal dignity
  • Improves irrigation of food gardens

#2 Hippo Utility Cap

Another water innovation by Hippo Roller is the Utility Cap, effectively a cap-in-cap design to ensure water is hygienically dispensed and contamination is reduced. It also functions as an irrigation tool.



The Utility Cap allows small-holder farmers to irrigate their crops far more efficiently.
If lost, it can be replaced with a standard soda-bottle top.
No need to remove the handle and no need to stand the drum upright to access the water.
The inside cap enables users to draw water without opening the larger seal.
This reduces the risk of contamination and ensures the hygienic storage of water.
Filters and other point-of-use water treatment products can be added to further improve the quality of the stored water.

#3 Hippo Spaza Shop

The functionality of this portable water innovation is enhanced by the addition of the Hippo Spaza Shop, a specially designed steel frame that can be attached to the Hippo Roller.




This steel frame converts the Hippo Roller into a simple trolley for transporting products to preferred high traffic customer market locations, and then into a stand for product display.
The Hippo Spaza Shop promotes economic activity and job creation within rural markets, a priority in poverty alleviation.
To encourage corporate sponsors and advertisers to get involved, we have added the option to include branding on both the Hippo roller and Hippo Spaza Shop.
The frame of the Hippo Spaza Shop is strong enough to be used as an emergency stretcher in remote areas to carry the sick and injured.

Why do we need Water innovation?

1.2 billion people live in areas of water scarcity of which 750 million suffer from economic water scarcity, which means they lack access to safe drinking water.

In Africa, 40% of the poorest households do not have piped-in water, and more than half of its population lack access to improved water sources such as boreholes, wells, or taps.

Water scarcity map
Women with water buckets

A heart-breaking reality of economic water scarcity is that women and children are forced to carry their water using a 20 litre / five gallon bucket, balancing a bucket filled with water on top of their heads – for hours at a time – every single day.

This has devastating effects in terms of health, sanitation, education and livelihoods:

  • Long-term neck & spine damage
  • Keeping kids away from school
  • No time for economic activities