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What are Pumping Stations?

C. Martin
C. Martin

Pumping stations are buildings or places that house pumps or other equipment designed to move water and other fluids from one location to another. Pump stations are sometimes called lift stations. The particular type of equipment residing in a specific pumping station will depend on its exact function, and on the type of fluid that requires pumping. Different pumps may be needed, for example, at a sewage pumping station that deals with sludge and slurry, when compared with a water pumping station.

Pumping stations typically have a dedicated function. Many pumping stations form important structural parts of the public water supply system, typically serving to pump water out of a reservoir, and into a system of pipes. Some pumping stations transport domestic sludge, liquid industrial waste, or agricultural slurry. Other uses of pumping stations include managing the water supply of canals, pumping water uphill in certain types of hydroelectric systems, providing irrigation to farming land, and draining water from low-lying land.

Pumps are sometimes necessary to move thick sewage through lines.
Pumps are sometimes necessary to move thick sewage through lines.

Pumps that are utilized in these stations include two main types. These are rotodynamic pumps and positive displacement pumps, and they are classified based on the mechanism that they use to move fluids. Rotodynamic pumps work by adding pressure to a column of fluid in order to increase the rate at which the fluid moves through a pipe.

A rotodynamic pump uses a rotor to apply pressure to a fluid. These pumps are often called centrifugal pumps, and they may be used in a sewage pump station, as they allow the pumping of thick slurries. Centrifugal pumps are also often used in water pumping stations that provide water to agricultural irrigation systems.

The water supply of canals may be managed by pumping stations.
The water supply of canals may be managed by pumping stations.

Positive displacement pumps work by forcibly moving an amount of fluid from an intake pipe to an outlet pipe. These pumps usually produce a constant flow. As such, these pumps often form part of the equipment for a standard water pump station providing the flow for a public water supply.

Modern pumping stations are often monitored and maintained using a computer called a pump station manager. These computers offer the advantage of allowing a pump station to operate continuously, without necessarily being staffed at all times of the day or night. Pump station manager computers usually have a user-friendly interface that allows non-technical personnel to operate the station. These computers typically monitor many important variables that affect the successful operation of pumping stations, such as liquid pressure and flow rates.

Discussion Comments


Even though the article mentions that the pumps might have a user friendly interface, I'm sure you probably have to be pretty well trained to know what all the different readings mean. I'm sure if you set me in front of the screen, I would have no idea what all the different numbers meant or what they should be reading. I figure one of the most important parts of the whole thing isn't necessarily knowing what all the numbers mean as much as it is knowing what to do in a situation where a pumping station wasn't working correctly.

I know in the town where I used to live, one of the pumping stations for part of the town wasn't quite big enough for the amount of water that came through it during big rain storms, so it would always end up flooding the streets. They finally identified the problem and got a larger pump that they expected to be able to handle the cities growth for the next several years.


For anyone who has ever lived "off the grid" in a rural area, you have probably been very glad to have a septic pump station. Their primary use is just to pump water from the septic tank into the drainage area whenever the tank gets too full. We had the pump on our septic tank go bad one time, and it was a very unpleasant situation.

The thing I never really thought about before was irrigation pumping stations. I have seen plenty of farms where they use artificial watering, but I never considered how the water got there. I suppose depending on where you lived, the water could either come from the municipal water supply or from a pond or well near your home.


@TreeMan - That is very true. That makes me think, too, that the different pumping stations probably have to have some sort of special generator associated with them, too. Even when the electricity goes out, you are still able to flush the toilet and get water out of the tap.

My guess would be that in terms of designing the systems, cities have civil engineers on staff that can figure out all of the ins and outs of where the stations need to be and what kind of use they will see. Since the sewage systems have been created along with the development of cities, I'm sure most of the work now is less about the design of the system itself as much as it is about keeping everything going smoothly.

Besides just sewage pumping systems, my guess would be that the same things could be said about the pumping stations for drinking water.


I guess I never really put much thought into how water gets circulated around to different places where it is needed.

It seems like sewer pumping stations would be one of the most important uses. I don't think any city wants to have to deal with the sewers getting backed up because the pumps aren't strong enough or don't have the capacity to move the right amount of water.

Whenever a city is designing their sewage system, how do they calculate how many pumps they are going to keep and how strong they need to be? Is there a special system for determining the best location of the various pump stations to get the most efficient use from them?

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    • Pumps are sometimes necessary to move thick sewage through lines.
      By: hansenn
      Pumps are sometimes necessary to move thick sewage through lines.
    • The water supply of canals may be managed by pumping stations.
      By: Robert Hoetink
      The water supply of canals may be managed by pumping stations.