World Without Pumps – Modern Residential Plumbing

These anecdotes are the result of a campaign launched to raise awareness of the importance of pumps and the pump industry in all of our daily lives.

Pumps Help Us Stay Healthy and Improve our Quality of Life

Poop is no joke. Two years ago, it was recorded that just over half of the world’s population—or 54%—had access to safely managed sanitation, and about 6% did not have any sanitation facilities at all. Instead, they practiced open defecation, according to information gathered by the nonprofit organization Our World in Data.

More broadly, it is understood that global access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education can reduce illness and death from disease, leading to improved health, poverty reduction, and socioeconomic development, this is according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but you don’t have to be a governmental agency to understand the value of sanitary conditions. Many countries, especially developing nations, are challenged to provide these basic needs to their populations, leaving people at risk for water, sanitation, and hygiene related diseases.

Pumps are at the forefront of this change and play a critical role in the dialogue surrounding sanitation and global health matters.

Since the beginning of time, mankind has used water for sustenance and sanitation. Although the first water systems date back thousands of years, they relied mainly on gravity from streams and natural springs to deliver water. All the ways we use water in our homes today are made possible by the pumps that deliver clean, pure water dependably at our demand. Without a bank of large centrifugal or turbine type pumps, and booster pumps at the water department or submersible centrifugal pumps in our individual wells, we’d still be hauling buckets of water from a stream, a well or an old-fashioned hand pump. Even in the early part of the 20th century, many homes in smaller towns and rural areas still lacked the convenience of running water.

Water When and Where You Need It

In most cities, a municipal water system or private utility supplies water to homes and businesses through a system of pipes, known as water mains, drawing water from a deep well, a reservoir or a natural body such as a lake or stream. The water is pumped into a treatment plant by large, often multistage centrifugal pumps, where it is purified before being distributed throughout the system with pressure typically created by additional centrifugal pumps. They provide controllable pressure and a consistent water supply that users can rely on.

In rural or suburban areas, water may be supplied by individual wells or a community well. Individual wells generally use submersible centrifugal pumps that typically fill a pressure tank in the house or a nearby pump house. Community wells may use a similar but larger pump to elevate water to a tower, which then feeds water to the system’s users via gravity. None of these solutions would be possible without the right pump.

Making Living Better

The three basic types of pumps used in plumbing are positive-displacement, centrifugal, and axial/mixed flow pumps. By far, the most common pumps in use today for plumbing are centrifugal pumps. They are everywhere, from our homes to the largest mechanical processing plants.

Centrifugal pumps, in fact, are the most used type of pump in the world. The reason for their popularity is that they can serve a variety of applications and they have a simple design that produces high efficiency. They also handle a wide range of pressures (head) while generating a high flow rate and rank high in ease of use.

Here are some of the ways that pumps have improved our lives, both through supplying the water we need to live safely, and providing other conveniences:

Flush toilets, of course, is at the top of the list of ways to dispose of waste efficiently and sanitarily, and it is a global health matter. Water-flushed latrines were found to exist as early as the 31st century BC, but they were flushed with buckets of water, sometimes boiling, poured by hand. The flush toilet dates back to at least 1596 when Sir John Harington described a forerunner of the modern flush toilet that was installed at his house. A crucial advance in plumbing was the S-trap, invented by the Scottish mechanic Alexander Cumming in 1775, and is still in use today. This device uses the standing water to seal the outlet of the bowl, preventing foul sewer air from escaping. Water to flush these early toilets was supplied mainly by companies that used wooden pipes and waterwheel-driven pumps to move the water from a local body of water to their customers.

Water for our bath or shower is a necessity we’ve come to depend on for hygiene. Gone are the days of heating water on the stove for a once-weekly tub bath that were often shared by family members in succession. We’re not only better and healthier because of these advances, but we smell better as well, and we can thank the pumps that bring us flowing water.

Washing dishes also used to involve heating kettles of water on the stove and washing and rinsing them by hand in dishpans. Now, dishwashers perform the task without effort, aided by internal centrifugal pumps that increase water pressure, which sprays through the spray arm to clean bowls, utensils, and dishes. When the washing and rinsing are finished, the pump propels the water out of the dishwasher into the drain.

Water for eating, drinking, and cooking is instantly available, thanks to pumps. Coffeemaking is a good example of the additional ways that pumps bring us added convenience. In a Keurig coffee maker, an internal pump moves water from the machine’s reservoir into the heating element when it is switched on. Espresso machines require some type of hydraulic force to create the pressures necessary to extract espresso. Most modern espresso machines rely on an internal or external pump to build this pressure. The type of pump found in most commercial-quality espresso machines is a rotary vane pump, consisting of a brass rotary vane pump head and an electric motor to turn the pump. 

Doing the laundry is another example of where pumps make our housework easier. Once an automatic washing machine completes its programmed series of wash-and-rinse cycles an internal centrifugal pump empties the water into a drain, often moving large quantities in a short time.

Sump pumps help prevent basement water damage thus keeping the house’s structure sound. Installed in a basement sump (pit) that collects water flowing from drain tiles around the house’s foundation, they pump the water into a drainpipe that carries it away from the house.

Beautiful landscaping with a green lawn, lush plants, and shady trees, would be difficult if not impossible to maintain without the pumps that provide the water to sustain them.

The critical role that pumps play in our plumbing systems cannot be overstated. A world without pumps is no laughing matter, especially to global health officers.