The shadoof consists of an upright frame on which is suspended a long pole or branch, at a distance of about one-fifth of its length from one end. At the long end of this pole hangs a bucket, skin bag, or bitumen-coated reed basket, while the short end carries a weight (clay, stone, or similar) which serves as the counterpoise of a lever. When correctly balanced, the counterweight will support a half-filled bucket, so some effort is used to pull an empty bucket down to the water, but only the same effort is needed to lift a full bucket.
With an almost effortless swinging and lifting motion, the waterproof vessel is used to scoop up and carry water from one body of water (typically, a river or pond) to another. At the end of each movement, the water is emptied out into runnels that convey the water along irrigation ditches in the required direction.
It is estimated that a shadoof can raise over 2,500 litres per day. Typical discharge of the well is around 2 litres per second. Maximum water depth may be up to 3 meters. When larger depth is needed, the use of a sakia or noria is usually a better option. Alternatively, handpump , treadle pumps or electrical deep well pumps may also be used.