How the Aquaduct Mobile Water Filtration Vehicle Works

By: Cristen Conger

What is the Aquaduct?

The Aquaduct takes the hauling power of a bicycle and adds a water filtration system to it.
The Aquaduct takes the hauling power of a bicycle and adds a water filtration system to it.
Photo courtesy of IDEO

Biking is a hip thing to do in an increasingly eco-conscious world. Yes, it sculpts your buns and thighs, but it also burns no fossil fuels. Now think about a tricycle. It's the vehicle of choice for toddlers and tykes, but it also could dramatically improve the living conditions of millions of people in Third World countries.

­A life-changing tricycle may strike you as illogical, but tech powerhouse Google disagrees. The company, along with co-sponsors Specialized Bicycles and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, selected a water-filtering tricycle as the winner of its 2008 Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine competition. Chosen from among 102 entries, the Aquaduct Mobile Filtration Vehicle claimed the crown. It also snagged a gold medal from the International Design Excellence Awards for the eco-design category, as well as scores of hits for its promotional YouTube clip.


What can this buzz-worthy bike do? The prototype Aquaduct looks like an oversized tricycle and works simultaneously as a transportation and water-filtering device. Its designers from IDEO global design consultancy envisioned the tricycle initially as a way to draw attention to the more than 1.1 billion people who don't have access to potable water and offer a possible solution for clean drinking water [source: Team Aquaduct]. Granted, there are many companies and organizations aiming to solve that problem as well, but the Aquaduct concept attacks the issue from a novel, two-pronged approach.

In developing countries without running water, the daily duty of obtaining water often falls to women and children. They walk an average of four miles (6.4 kilometers) every day in order to retrieve water [source: IDEO]. Even then, there's no guarantee that the water they collect is purified or that they have storage containers to shield it from bacteria. Women and children can haul water much easier on a tricycle like the Aquaduct than carrying it. And by the time they get back to their home, they'll have up to 2 gallons (8 liters) of filtered water ready for use in the removable clean water container on the front of the bike.

In addition to saving time and human energy, the Aquaduct also cuts back on carbon emissions. Motorized vehicles that may carry water to remote areas burn fossil fuels. Boiling water to purify it also results in carbon dioxide production. The Aquaduct eliminates both.

Now that we know what the Aquaduct is, the question is: How exactly does the Aquaduct filter water?