Waterhammer Incidents and Accidents

Arris Tijsseling
Waterhammer due to instantaneous valve closure.
Waterhammer accident (courtesy I. Orynyak).

Waterhammer is a well known phenomenon , the basic mechanisms of which are well understood. The phenomenon consists of pressure waves travelling through pipes at the speed of sound, which travel long distances and will detect all weak spots in the system due to their high speed (say 1 km/s). Despite extensive knowledge and experience, waterhammer incidents and accidents will always happen for a variety of reasons. Amongst these are: unawareness of the phenomenon by pipeline operators, bad design of pipe systems, human error, electricity failure, emergency actions, pipe rupture. The phenomenon is used in a positive way in hydraulic ram pumps.