A shaduf is constructed of a long pole mounted on a seesaw, with a bucket, skin or other container attached at the end. A person pulls down on a rope to submerge the container into a source of water and then the container is raised up for emptying.
The water may be gathered for household use or emptied into a channel that transports the water to fields or to settlements. The use of shadufs are critical for irrigation for many poorer societies, or for areas where power is not easily installed to power pumps and generators.
Originally developed in ancient Egypt, shadufs are still in use today in many parts of the world. The counterweight is constructed to be approximately half the weight of a full bucket or skin of water so that the effort to raise or lower the bucket is the same in either direction.
Harvested water from shadufs is not always used immediately, and can be stored for later use in cisterns, reservoirs, tanks and wells. Often these holding areas are lined and covered to prevent water loss and contamination.
Shadufs are also called: shadoofs, swapes, well poles, well sweeps or sweeps in the United States. In India shadufs are called a denkli, or paecottah.