Wello Founder Cynthia Koenig in Udaipur, India
Designer Cynthia Koenig with the Wello WaterWheel. Photo credit: Josh Dick Photography.

When Cynthia Koenig, an innovative young social entrepreneur from New York, learned that millions of girls and women around the world spend hours each day collecting water from distant sources, she decided to create a new way to help people in poor communities transport water.

It’s called the WaterWheel.

Koenig’s WaterWheel allows anyone to roll water in a 50-liter container instead of carrying it in 5 gallon (19 liter) jugs. Koenig estimates that the WaterWheel can save women 35 hours per week in water transport time, while preventing the physical strain that comes from balancing 40 pounds of water on top of their heads for hours each day.

Every day around the world, over 200 million hours are spent each day fetching water, often from water sources miles from home, and this task usually falls to women and girls. By freeing up valuable time, the WaterWheel allows a woman to spend time on income-generating activities that can help pull her family out of poverty. The time savings also means there is a greater likelihood that girls will be allowed to stay in school, further reducing the rate of intergenerational poverty.

waterwheel-indiaAfter receiving a $100,000 Grand Challenges Canada prize to develop the WaterWheel, Koenig founded a social enterprise, Wello. The company is in an early stage of development and has been piloting the WaterWheel in rural communities in India. Koenig also plans on continuing to make the WaterWheel itself more useful by adding in filtration, drip irrigation kits, even a cell phone charger that uses the rotation of the wheel to charge the battery of the cell phone and give people more access to essentials like communication and education.

To learn more about this brilliant social innovation and its potential to transform the lives of many girls and women around the world, check out Koenig’s TED talk at http://bit.ly/1gBdpGt. A recent article about her venture appeared in The Guardian at http://bit.ly/1dMt7Mh.

To learn more about how to support her work, visit Wello’s website at http://wellowater.org/

Like all brilliant ideas, it makes you wonder “Why didn’t I think of this?” We can only hope the WaterWheel can be produced and sold at a radically affordable price (a topic this post doesn’t address). However, it looks so simple, you’d think it could be manufactured for next to nothing, and on site as well, without the need for the cost and delays of importing.

Thanks to David Peck for calling our attention to this fascinating innovation. 

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