An Eye-Opening Experience with Dewatering

Visit to Netherlands shows double acting piston pumps on nearly every job site
An Eye-Opening Experience with Dewatering

It was the spring of 2010 — during the establishment phase of BBA Pumps, Inc. — when I went to visit several construction sites in the Netherlands to see how successful dewatering was being organized. Talk about a small country showing how great it can be! It was an absolutely eye-opening experience.

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with large parts of the country situated below sea level. Big cities, heavy industry and seaports are mainly concentrated along the coastline. For this reason, the infrastructure, both above and belowground is a significant factor and of real importance.

Working Below the Water Line

No matter where you look in the Netherlands, when you see an excavator there is always a dewatering pump close by. Almost everywhere, the water line is just a few feet beneath the ground surface. A large number of dewatering companies benefit from this situation. Quite often these are family businesses where the know-how and experience have been handed down from generation to generation.

Differences Compared to North America

There are serious differences in the way dewatering is done in the Netherlands. Consider for example the pumps; you won't find open diesel pumps in the Netherlands. For many decades, the standard has been super silenced. In addition, you won't see anyone dewatering using vacuum-assisted centrifugal pumps. The preferred method is to use double-acting piston pumps driven by a single-cylinder diesel engine, which is built into a canopy. Nearly every excavation site down to 30 feet is dewatered using well-point filters connected to HDPE header pipes with a single or multiple piston pumps.

The Revenue Model

Fuel prices are high in the Netherlands and taxes are levied for every cubic foot of water extracted from the ground. This may be the reason for the high level of professionalism and the revenue model adopted in the Dutch dewatering system.

Setting up a drainage system around the job site is a matter of experience and requires good knowledge of the local soil structure. Connecting and starting the well-point piston pump is the reward for all the hard work. As soon as that piston pump starts to operate, the revenue model of the dewatering system takes effect.

With a suction lift of no less than 32 feet (9.6 mwc) and the ability to run dry infinitely, without causing damage or wear, this piston pump is perfect for this kind of job. The unit is driven by a single-cylinder diesel engine with very low fuel consumption, max. 0.4 Gallon/hour (1.4 L/hour).  

You can find dewatering piston pumps on construction sites in the Netherlands with more than 25 years of loyal service and over 100,000 hours of operation. Real workhorses.

Michael McWhirt is the president of North American operations for BBA Pumps, Inc. For more information, go to


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