A treadle pump is a human-powered low-cost pump
designed to lift shallow water sources for irrigation.
A treadle is a lever device pressed by the foot to drive a
machine, in this case a pump. The treadle pump can do
most of the work of a motorized pump, but costs
considerably less to purchase. Because it needs no fossil
fuel (it is driven by the operator's body weight and leg
muscles), it can also cost less to operate than a motorized
pump. Because leg muscles tire less than arm muscles, it
can also be used by the farmers for longer. The treadle
pump can greatly increase the income that farmers
generate from their land, both by extending the traditional
growing season and by expanding the types of crops that
can be cultivated.
The treadle pump can draw water from up to 7.5m below
the surface and has a maximum flow rate of 18m3 per
hour. These are very approximate, and should only be
taken as a rough guide. As the lift height increases, flow
rate falls so at a maximum lift, the actual flow rate will
be much less that the maximum flow rate.
Low-cost treadle pumps have been
developed in Nepal, under the
guidance of Practical Action. Most
of the parts are manufactured
locally, so it also brings much
needed income to the local
economy. The equipment is
basically developed for irrigation of
small land area (2000-3000m2.)
where home labour is easily
Figure 1: Bamboo treadle pumps
are used for irrigation in Nepal.
Photo: Practical Action / Sandra Gibson.
The pump mechanism has two
cylinders with piston and check
valve assemblies. The treadle action
creates alternate strokes in the two
pistons that lift the water in pulses.
Using twin cylinders means that the
water output is semi-continuous,
making the treadle pump more
efficient than a single cylinder
pump such as a hand pump.
Figure 2: Image from How to Make and Use the Treadle
Irrigation Pump. Illustration: Practical Action Publishing.
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