The treadle pump is a low-lift, high-capacity, human-powered pump designed to overcome these obstacles. The treadle pump can lift five to seven cubic meters of water per hour from wells and boreholes up to seven meters deep as well as from surface water sources such as lakes and rivers.
The treadle pump has two significant advantages over motorized pumps for irrigation of agricultural land of less than one hectare. First, the treadle pump is considerably less expensive than motorized pumps. Under typical market conditions, the treadle pump is about 25% of the retail price of motorized pumps of comparable flow rate capacity. Second, the treadle pump costs much less to operate, having no fuel and only limited repair and maintenance costs. A cost analysis (Hyman 1995) comparing treadle pumps and motorized pumps used in Senegal found that a cubic meter of water used in the irrigation of 0.5 hectares had an equivalent cost of $0.08 when supplied by the treadle pump which was just less than half the $0.17 cost for the same amount of water delivered by a motorized pump.