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2,500 Year Old Pump Technology is Still a Thing

Last week in Tucson, Arizona I attended the annual meeting of the Hydraulic Institute – the largest association of pump manufacturers in North America. There I heard about the latest updates on the fluid handling industry. Then I went on my first tour of a wastewater treatment plant and learned about how they use 2500-year-old pump technology to handle their wastewater intake. And I was floored! I had to see it with my own eyes!

About 2500 years ago Greek mathematician/scientist Archimedes described what is now known as the Archimedes Screw – the world's oldest pump technology. I have worked in fluid handling for over 35 years and I thought the Archimedes Screw was a thing only shown in museums. I found out last week how wrong I was.

The tour I went on was of the Tres Rios Water Reclamation Facility. They had four Archimedes Screw pumps at their facility which meant that someone still manufacturers these pumps. The ones at Tres Rios were manufactured by Spaans Babcock in Holland (see Fig. 1-2 photos I took on the tour).

The article Wastewater not screwing around with sewage removal shows and discusses when the most recent Archimedes Screw pumps were installed at Tres Rios in 2021. I lifted the photo from the above article and show it in Fig. 3. I guess these types of pumps are common in wastewater handling? What would Archimedes think of his technology today? 

Figure 1. Spaans Babcock Archimedes Screw pump at Tres Rios WRF
Figure 2. The four Archimedes Screw pumps at Tres Rios WRF are under this cover
Figure 3. Installation of new Archimedes Screw pumps at Tres Rios WRF in 2021 (photo from article linked above, from Pima County, Arizona)
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Tuesday, 26 September 2023
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