How Water Wheels Changed The Whole Village’s Life

How Water Wheels Changed The Whole Village’s Life

In this modern days everything can be done with the help of electronic devices. Whether it is daily chores, business, entertainment, or study, we do it all with the help of electronic devices.

One thing in common about all electronic devices are that those stuffs need electricity to function well. However, not every corner of this earth is touched by electricity, there are some dark spots where electricity is still in absent.

The reason is because some of those places are too far from the power plants or those places are too remote to be accessed by the providers. For more traditional tribes, maybe that’s still fine because they still live in their traditional cultures.

Taoyuan Canal Water wheel (Wikimedia commons)

However, some of the people in needs are living in the same pace as us. They are living in a modern life with modern demand, but they lack of supports to provide the request, which is the amount of electricity.

In that case, an innovation is needed to balance things out. In Indonesia, where the amount of river is abundant, people started to use the help from nature to get the energy they need to fulfill their need of electricity by building water wheels.

Not only for electricity, people also built water wheels for many other uses such as irrigation, tourist attraction, water pump, and mill for farmers’ crops. Here are some stories about how building a water mill can change the lives of village people.

Electricity Source

Water wheel generator
Water wheel generator

In Kedungsumur Village, Probolinggo, Indonesia, people had never tasted the benefits of electricity provided by PLN, the official power supplier. The reason is because they are living in a very remote area, almost 21 kilometers from the city.

People used to use traditional oil lamps to light up their houses when the night came. Things got harder for them when Indonesian government decided to raise the kerosene cost which they used to fuel the lamps.

In order to increase the quality of their lives, the Kedungsumur people then decided to build water wheels. They totally then built in total 26 water wheels which then they placed at 26 streams around their village.

Each water wheel is connected into a turbine which then gives electricity based on how much power they provide. There are some turbines which can give 5000 watts and some others give only 3000 watts. Every 5000-watt turbine can give electricity to 15 houses, while the 3000-watt ones may support up to 10 houses.

Water Mill Wheel
Water Mill Wheel

Now, people in Kedungsumur village can also enjoy the benefits of electricity. They can use it to light electric lamps, cook rice, watch television, and electronic needs in schools.

However, this doesn’t mean that they are free from problems. Sometimes, when the rain is hard and the rivers are flooding, the flood may destroy the water wheels or its components. In that time, they have to build new water wheels or fix the broken ones before they can taste the benefits of electricity again.


Water wheel for mill
Water wheel for mill

Different from people in Kedungsumur village who use water wheels to obtain the electricity, people in Manggungsari village, Tasikmalaya, Indonesia built water wheels for another purpose, to irrigate their rice fields.

Before they built the water wheels, they found it hard to grow rice because of limited supply of water from the irrigation channels. Let alone when the dry season came, it was almost predictable that their rice fields will suffer from drought.

That was happening every year before the people in Manggungsari decided to build a water wheel in river Citanduy in 2014. The concept was simple, the water wheel scoops water from the river below and as it turns it brings the water up.

When the water was on top, it is poured into a container which is connected into a pipe. The water then flows through the pipe and then distributed to other channels that will distribute the water into farmers’ fields.

Water Wheel Used To Transport Water (Andrew Hall)
Water Wheel Used To Transport Water (Andrew Hall)

Looking at the good result, the people of Manggungsari then built several more water wheels. Nowadays, even when the water debit of river Citanduy is low, those people aren’t confused anymore, because they still have constant source of water for their fields.

“One water wheel can last up to one year, and it never stops as long as the river flows,” told Muhdiyat, one of the farmers to Tempo. “In addition, it saves a lot of money than buying water pumps, because water pumps need fuel to operate.”

Water Pump

Water wheel in Banjarnegara (Uje Hartono - detikcom)
Water wheel in Banjarnegara (Uje Hartono – detikcom)

Different story is told from Gumingsir village which is located in the mountains area in, Banjarnegara, Indonesia. In dry season, people there used to suffer from drought because their wells and natural water springs around the village are drying up. The only water they can get is dirty water.

Feeling fed up with the condition of the village, people there planned to pump the water from bigger water spring 40 meters below their village up using electric water pump. But after the cost calculation, they decided not to do it because it costed them a lot of money.

And then came up an innovation from Irhamto, one of the villager. He brought up the idea to build water wheel because he remembered that water wheel could also produce the energy to pump the water. In addition, they also have a constant water stream from irrigation channel flowing through their village.



Nowadays, people in Gumingsir are no more suffering from drought. They now have the sufficient amount of water to do their things that the water wheel pumped from the bigger water spring to them. The water wheel is turning because of the stream from irrigation channel which never stop flowing.

“This saved us a lot of money because this water wheel never required any electricity or fuel. Its maintenance is only regular oiling which costs us just Rp 30,000,- a month,” told Irhamto to detikcom.

He explained, the other maintenances needed are keeping the irrigation channel clean from trashes and planting trees around the water spring. “Because any trash could stop the spinning water wheel, while the trees are needed to keep the water debit of the water spring,” said Irhamto.


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