The Aqua Lauta Project

In collaboration with the Durham Art Gallery, Sunday Sept 11th the Aqua Lauta will be drawing and cleaning the fresh water from the Saugeen River.

The exhibition, Water, running until Sept. 11th.


So what is The Aqua Lauta Machine?

With our ever increasing population, water has become one of the biggest issues in the 21st. century. Water is essential for all life, humans, plants, fish, and wildlife inclusively. Ontarians are among the highest water users in the world. The average residential water user in Ontario uses 225 litres of water per day. Promoting water conservation in the face of apparent abundance, however, is deeply challenging.

The Aqua Lauta Machine will connect Ontarians to where their water comes from, that being our Great Lakes, how it needs to be conserved and kept clean to protect human and ecosystem health. It will, in an interactive, innovative, and fun way show people what it takes to make our natural water sources, the Great lakes and their watersheds, potable, that is healthy to drink and cook with. When we as individuals become connected to something, start to really understand and care about something, it is at that point we start to take greater action. Greater action of individuals evolves into community action with long lasting respect for the Great lakes and long lasting positive impacts and change.

The aim is to develop a working model of a water purification and distribution system sole operated through renewable sources of energies such as human power, solar, wind, gravity, etc.. I will be working with McMaster University, specifically the engineering faculty, to assist in design and build.

The project aims to design and build a portable water sculpture that through participants' interaction will draw water from a local source (lake/river) and feed into various transparent filtration systems and finally dispense clean drinking water to the participant.

Participants will gain hands on experience and education on the transportation of water from the Great Lakes to residential endpoints; the volume flow rate and energy/cost required to provide potable water to communities around the basin. By educating people to process and mechanisms of turning on a tap, the sculpture strives to provide a deeper insight and appreciation of a community's source of fresh water and the energy utilized to treat and transport that water.  

Installed at the McMaster Museum.

Being used as part of Waterweek 2014 Hamilton.

Guelph Waterweek events, 2014.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington.

If you are interested in booked the Aqua Lauta, please contact me.


The Beginning.

Working with 3 fourth year mechanical engineering students along with one faculty member from both engineering and studio art. First faze design issues started on a chalk board. Currently I am producing new drawings which the engineers will turn into 3d computer images.


I pushed back my cedar sculpture in order to build a model for the engineers working on the fluid dynamics and water filtration systems for the Aqua Lautus Machine. Here is a fast sketch of a centrifuge sand filtration design that we are exploring for the sculpture. It will be powered through pedal power, this is an interactive piece after all. Plus needing and using no hydro is important.


The frame along with axle set up for the cast iron wheels. 


Several things are coming together simultaneously. Here is my sketch of the pump, along with the engineers computer rendering.


As part of my research I collected different water facts. Here are a couple, more to follow. Source is referenced if you are interested in looking further.

Dirty water is the leading cause of death in the world.

Water. Steven Solomon, Harper Collins, NY, 2010

throughout history, water's life-giving indispensability ha always been double-edged. On one hand, drinking two to three glasses of clean fresh water daily sustains our existence; several gallons needed for healthy cooking: about ten to twenty gallons are needed for minimal hygiene. Yet, simultaneously, drinking contaminated water and exposure to stagnant water bearing an infiltrating army of diseases also is the main source of human illness, abbreviates life spans, and physical miseries.


With great help from the two professors at McMaster an application to the Great Lakes Guardian Fund was made. A bit of a long shot as this project is a little out of the norm. On the other hand, it meets several objectives of the fund. 

Here is the application below. It was turned down.

Great Lakes Guardian Fund

Oct. 10Th,2012

Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund
Rural Programs Branch
1 Stone Rd.,W., 4th Floor
Guelph, ON N1G 4Y2

I, Christopher McLeod, am writing in support of McMaster Universities application to the Great Lakes
Guardian Fund regarding project title: An Interactive Sculpture on Water Purification Drinking
Fountain. (The Aqua Lauta Machine)

When we use water it tends to simply appear when needed and disappear when we are finished with it.
There is no sense of its source, its volume, or the energy involved in moving and filtering it. We have
become disconnected from and lost sight of our dependance on water. As a professional artist and
mature student enrolled in the Studio Arts program, I strive to create visceral and interactive
experiences. My last interactive sculpture, The Responsibility Machine, was recently featured at Nuit
Blanche in Toronto where an estimated 15,000 people had the opportunity to engage with the sculpture
and consider the notion of personal responsibility. This project, through a collaboration of Art and
Engineering, The Aqua Lautus Machine (Project Titled: An Interactive Sculpture on Water Purification
Drinking Fountain: An Education Tool) will inspire participant's to engage in the production of potable
water direct from the source through a mechanical centrifuge sand filtration unit, UV unit, and bottling
station that will be constructed from steel, copper and acrylic.

Once completed, the sculpture's portability becomes important as I will be travelling to various parks &
festivals located within the Great Lakes region, drawing attention to the access to clean water,
conservation techniques and maintenance of fresh water sources, and our community's health. The
sculpture, in a fun and entertaining way, will create an experience that will open the door to evaluating
a community's awareness of the issues surrounding the Great Lakes. Art, as an educational tool, has the
ability to enlighten a community's knowledge of our water resource from the Great Lakes and what is
needed to protect these resources. The Aqua Lautus Machine will create a sense of ownership and drive
the desire to take responsibility.

After travelling through the summer, a collaborative analysis of the public knowledge and awareness of
our water resources will be produced. The findings will be based on information gathered and
disseminated from participant's use and interaction with the sculpture. This interactive, educational
sculpture will reach out to the minds of our current generation and future ones. When we as individuals
become aware, there is growth. When we as individuals become connected and passionate, there is
action. When communities of people become inspired, there is change.

Thank you for taking the time to review our application. I look forward to hearing from you.

Christopher McLeod


Progress continues on The Aqua Lauta Machine (water cleaner). Ongoing updates will be added to the page on the right. Here, the engineer students are forming their own acrylic cones. Here is a test.


The two front wheels are at least 50-70 years old so I did a light cleaning with the sandblaster, followed by a base coat and two top coats of paint. I mixed a penny copper heavy metallic with a royal blue in order to get a slate/pewter colour set of wheels.


I welded the brackets needed to attached the rear axle. These wheels I found outside of Belleville. They are cast iron, and from a turn of the century wooden push cart. A great find as wheels with axles are hard to come by. I sandblasted them as well then finished them off like the front wheel.

Today, Jan 29, Prasadh, Greg, Reuben and myself attach the wood pump assembly to the steel frame
on its wheels. Once loosely bolted on we also test the one arm Greg built inside the pump to see 
how it would spin. 


Here is the first test spin of the peddle powered water pump we are building for the sculpture. There
will be three arms in total.

Research info: ie - Fun Facts!

Dirty water is the leading cause of death in the world.

1850 Toilets become popular, but still don't work that well. London's water usage doubles between 1850 and 1856

1861 Thomas Crapper obtains a patent for effective flushing mechanism making toilets more effective

Two million tons of waste water are dumped into the worlds rivers and lakes everyday.

The world’s population is growing by about 80 million people a year, implying increased freshwater demand of about 64 billion cubic metres a year.

Water scarcity may limit food production and supply.

Less usable freshwater each year.

Water rights conflicts are on the rise.

Overdrafting: taking out more water from lakes for use than goes in.

BioSand Filters remove 95.0 to 99.0% of organic contaminants.

March 12 Update:

The pump has been tested and looks to be fully functional pumping approximately 1 ltr every 22 seconds. Pretty good for what we need, and all with pedal power.

Structurally we have now completed the Sand centrifuge up-rites. Pics:

Cad: Frame with pump, some pulleys and centrifuge

assembling the acrylic housing for centrifuge

March 22- Reuben heading to the Kipling Ceremony for the graduates from Engineering at McMaster University.

March 23 - Good progress this week with the addition of the sand filter unit, both the centrifuge and gravity sections are in place. The pulleys for the transmission are also in place along with the belts. We managed to go with all black v-belts and one fantastic orange round belt. Welding next week so testing of the transmission / sand unit will be possible.

Cad drawing for the base for the UV unit (yellow)

march 29th - Functional!

Yes, it is now fully functioning and has gone through the first wet tests. That is, test with water running through it. Now, the functionality still needs to be refined, but the basics are in place which will allow me to start to refine them while addressing aesthetic issues at the same time.

What you see here is the skeleton of the sculpture with all the basic elements in place and working in harmony. That is, the Peristaltic pump pumps beautifully and can pull water from 30 feet. The transmission with pulleys transfers the pedal power to the pump as well as the centrifuge sand filter and the UV filter! Awesome fun to pedal and watch happen before your eyes.

I have drank the water from the sculpture and it is yummy!

Video of very first wet test:


Spring has sprung and work continues on the Aqua Lauta Machine. I have decided I'm going to post on progress, issues and challenges from May through to the end of June. Here is week one, May 6th.....

The Aqua Lauta Machine as it now stands. Can you see it?

I am reinforcing the frame with cross members and adding additional sub frame across the front wheel axle. This will improve the rigidity of the frame allowing for heartier travel and less flex during use.

 Also I am refining components of the sculpture I am not happy with either from a build quality, design or aesthetic perspective. Above is an example, these are the brackets for the small rear wheels. I felt that a better design would be stronger, and look more refined so I sawzalled them off. New brackets are desined, cut and ready to go. I will be welding them Monday along with the additional cross members.

Here I am carting off the bare frame back to the welding room. I felt like a surgeon rolling a patient back into the operating room cause something was missed. I assured the patient all would be well and not to worry.


Week May 20 was all about crafting out a new wood frame. 

Week May 27 was about now fabricating the new steel frame as part of the redesigned interior 
pump and integrated pedal crank. 


June 22: The mold for the back plate of the seat is made. Loosely inspired by Jacobsen office chair.

Then, using Finnish ply and water proof wood glue, the back of the seat is started by strapping four
layers onto the mold.

At the same time, in the machine shop i have started milling the hub for the peristaltic pump. 


Peristaltic Pump Progress

Excellent progress on the new pump has been made. Now, some of the parts I have been machining 

are starting to come together. The hub is being machined on the mill. A slow go as I am not 
familiar with the process or the machine. All works out great, especially since the arms came in and I now 
know the hub fits.

I sketched out in pencil how I wanted the new pumps are to be shaped, and how I thought best, 
the wheels could be mounted. Mark, one of the technicians at McMaster Universtity was so kind 
enough to convert those into CAD drawing in order to have them water cut from 8mm aluminum 

Christopher McLeod with the new pump arms

Everything fit nice and snug into the new wooden housing. I think I will need to machine down the 
wheel brackets to afford more adjustability. Otherwise, looks fantastic.

The steel frame is going to be copper plated and the wood will be stained and lined with brass plate. 
I am looking forward to getting into the detailing of this project.

I wanted to explain beyond the new pictures posted of the pump so it is understood where this project is going. 

A slight change in the title replacing the word "Machine" with "Project." This reflects my new approach on working through how the apparatus will function. Now, rather than this being a single sculpture through which participants' interaction will draw water from a local source (lake/river) and feed into various transparent filtration systems and finally dispense clean drinking water to the participant, it will now be constructed through Stations. Unlike the original concept drawing below...

Represented as a single piece, the apparatus will now be constructed of: 
Station 1-Peristaltic Pedal Pump
Station 2-Centrifuge Sand Filtration & Ultraviolet Filter 

Station 1-Peristaltic Pedal Pump, Oct.11/13
Phase 1 of The Aqua Lauta Project will include the use of Station 1 only:

"Free water bottle refills...Free water bottle refills!' will be offered to the public by the stations host.
 The host, upon request for a bottle refill, will instruct the participant to sit on the piece, place 
 their bottle in the holder, and pedal pump until water fills the transparent filler hose. Once the 
 hose is visibly full, the tap can be engaged in order for the participant to fill their bottle. 
 Water for Station 1 will be drawn from a refillable container of tap water. 

It is my hope that those with a refillable bottle will connect even more with the energy water 
contains and requires. I am also looking to attract those that have not yet thought to bring a 
refillable water bottle to the idea of where our water comes from, how it's treated,
and why water is worth consideration. To initiate a discourse on the notion of bottled 
water being superior and stigma's that have developed over tap water. All while having fun!

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