Lift Water with an Archimedes Screw

(Physics for ages 5+)

People need water to survive, and most of our water is found in lakes, rivers, and ponds. So how do we move water from these places to our homes? Today, we have lots of cool machines and technologies that make this task easy, even if we have to move the water uphill.

We have pumps, trucks, pipes, buckets, and all kinds of tools to move water, some of which work a little better than others. Many of these require electricity, but even before electricity was invented, the people in ancient Greece figured out a cool way to move water uphill and even over long distances.

The video above shows you how to build an Archimedes Screw, an ancient method of defying gravity to lift water. Here’s how you can do this at home:



PVC pipe
Clear vinyl tubing
Duct tape
Containers for water
Food coloring (optional)
Adult supervision (Adult supervision at all times please)



  1. Start with a piece of PVC pipe that is 12-24 inches long, or however long you would like to test. Using the duct tape, attach the vinyl tubing to one end of the pipe.
  2. Wrap the tubing in a tight spiral around the pipe until you reach the bottom. Cut off any excess tubing once you reach the bottom. Using another piece of duct tape, secure the tubing to the other end of the pipe so that it is secured to both the top and bottom ends.
  3. The Archimedes Screw will work best if the tubing is evenly spaced along the pipe, so use the duct tape to hold the tubing in place where necessary.
  4. Fill one of your containers with water, and if you would like, add some food coloring and stir it together. This will be the downhill water. Place an empty container in a higher location, such as stacked on top of another container like you can see in the video.
  5. When you are ready, place one end of your Archimedes Screw in the water and slowly begin twisting it. How many turns does it take for water to start filling the higher container? How high can you move the water?



The Archimedes Screw works based on a principle of physics called positive-displacement. Basically, as the screw moves, some of the tubing will drop below the water line, allowing water to fall into it.

This pocket of water will continue to move up the screw as it is turned and eventually work its way out at the top of the pipe.

Additionally, new pockets of water will continually enter the tubing at the bottom of the screw, much like the first one, and work their way toward the top.

Feel free to test different scenarios, such as how turns are needed to move a certain amount of water, or how high you can move the water.