The Hydrological Playground
Maio 14, 2007
The PlayPump water system works as such:
While children have fun spinning on the PlayPump merry-go-round (1), clean water is pumped (2) from underground (3) into a 2,500-liter tank (4), standing seven meters above the ground.
A simple tap (5) makes it easy for women and children to draw water. Excess water is diverted from the storage tank back down into the borehole (6).
The water storage tank (7) provides a rare opportunity to advertise in outlaying communities. All four sides of the tank are leased as billboards, with two sides for consumer advertising and the other two sides for health and educational messages. The revenue generated by this unique model pays for pump maintenance.
Not surprisingly trying to assess the design and application of the PlayPump system took us for an emotional roller coaster. One minute we were giddy with enthusiasm, but the next minute, completely raving with skepticism (how long do the children have to twirl and twirl around to fill the tank; and is the water any safer?), only to return back to unbridled enthusiasm (well, it’s not as if the goal is to provide communities with daily showers, car washes, and indoor toilet flushes; and surely groundwater is reliably safer than the surface water sources to which the PlayPump offers an alternative).
Back and forth.
Convinced how cool the whole thing is, we soon found yet more reasons to doubt the viability of this earnest endeavor: aren’t there better options, such as these? Well, of course, but the PlayPump is not the singular solution for every possible situation. Aggregation is an effective strategy.
Counterproductive as we sometimes are with our privileged cynicism, we asked ourselves: don’t you find the ads a bit troubling, even comical? To which we replied: Yes, we are indeed privileged.
Back and so forth.
But before we reverted back to our usual default position of enthusiastic interest, we asked one last question: wouldn’t it be better to just give a sizable chunk of what we in the United States spend on public water services — to recreate, for instance, some sort of Edenic fantasies in the desert Southwest from severely depleted sources — to the sub-Saharan African nations to improve their hydrological infrastructure, and we are the ones who get to install the PlayPumps in our school grounds and playgrounds to force a growing population of obese, diabetic, allergic children, the ones inured to the hardship of suburban domesticity, to 1) help trim off a little of the fat, become less susceptible to diabetes, and prevent addictions to Allegra and Claritin; 2) teach them about the incredibly, wonderfuly awesome subject of hydrology; and 3) instill a life long commitment to water conservation?