Irrigation Pumping Plants


Blaine Hanson
UC Irrigation and Drainage Specialist

Maintaining energy efficiency - getting maximum output for every energy dollar spent - is the primary objective in operating an irrigation pumping plant. This manual answers grower's most frequent questions about irrigation pumping plants, from the basics of how the different types of pumps work to detailed information about pump design, motors vs. engines, performance tests, trouble-shooting, and maintenance. Case studies, illustrations, tables, graphs, bibliography, glossary, index.

1994, 127 pp - Publication 93-04 - $25

Funded by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Water Quality Initiative If you have comments or suggestions, please email the LAWR webmaster at
Last reviewed December 19, 2002

Water Management Handbook Series
Irrigation Pumping Plants
Publication #93-04

Table of Contents


  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures

Pumping Basics

  • How a Pump Works

Types of Pumps and Components

  • Deep-well Turbines
  • Submersible Pumps
  • Centrifugal Pumps
  • Axial Flow Pumps
  • Impellers


  • Deep-well Turbine and Centrifugal Pump Performance
  • Axial Flow Pump Performance
  • Submersible Pump Performance

Motors Versus Engines

  • Electric Motors
  • Variable Frequency Drives for Electric Motors
  • Engines
  • Converting from Motors to Engines

How to Choose a Pump

  • What to Consider in Choosing a Pump
  • Sizing the Deep-Well Turbine

Testing Pumps

  • Pump Performance Tests
  • Interpreting Pump Performance Test Results

Improving Performance

  • Trouble-Shooting Guide
  • Sand
  • Second-Hand Pump
  • Declining Groundwater Levels
  • Surging
  • Wear
  • Entrained Air
  • Cavitation
  • Encrustation
  • Corrosion
  • Changes in the Irrigation System
  • Poor Suction
  • Clogged Impellers
  • Insufficient Pressure and Capacity
  • Excessive Power Demand
  • Vibration/Abnormal Noise
  • Pumping Air
  • Changing Performance Characteristics
  • Adjusting Impellers
  • Installing Pumps in Series and in Parallel
  • Improving Well Performance

Case Studies: Pumping Plant Evaluations

  • Worn pump
  • Pump mismatched to operating conditions
  • Clogged impeller
  • Excessive power costs after pump repair
  • Inadequate pipe test section
  • Cascading water
  • Change in sprinkler nozzle size decreases overall efficiency
  • Pump capacity inadequate for expanded irrigation system
  • Benefits of Improving Pumping Plant Efficiency
  • Time-Of-Use Electric Rates

Summary: Factors to Consider About a Pumping Plant


  • Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Index


Managing energy efficiently - obtaining maximum output for every energy dollar spent - is a principal objective in operating an irrigation pumping plant. The more efficient the pumping plant, the more revenue dollars returned per dollar spent on pumping. But for a pumping plant to operate at maximum efficiency, the plant operator must be thoroughly knowledgeable about how pumping plants work.

This manual has been developed to answer the questions that most frequently plague growers about irrigation pumping plant operation. Organized as a series of short chapters on selected topics and prepared in a semi-technical format, the manual is grounded in the author's own field experience and in evaluations of numerous actual pumping plants. At the heart of the book (pages 77-84) is a trouble-shooting guide, which sets out suggested remedies for the most common problems arising in pumping plant operation. Pages 9 -102 present case studies - evaluations of real-world pumping plant problems along with recommended corrective action.

Our program is dedicated to the study of irrigation problems and techniques.