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Surge Pressure


What is a Surge
A pressure surge or a water hammer
is a pressure wave caused by a
sudden change in water velocity.
The word water hammer
originates from the hammering
sound which plumbing makes inside
a house when faucets are turned on
or off quickly.

Why do Surge analysis?

Protect the pipeline and its
Protect human life
Reduce pipe costs

When do Surge analysis?

Consideration should be given to
performing a surge analysis when any
of the following conditions exist
the maximum change of fluid velocity
could exceed 4 fps
the length of the pipeline exceeds 1000
there are fast acting valves in the system
there are pumps in the system

What are the Maximum

Allowable Pressures?
The various standards for PVC pipe are
not in total agreement regarding the
safety factor for PVC pipe.
1 The pipeline shall have a pressure class rating
greater than the static or working pressure
plus surge at any point in the system.
2 For low pressure systems, Pressure relief
valves shall be large enough to pass the full
pump discharge with a pipeline pressure no
greater than 50 percent above the
permissible working head of the pipe.

Allowable Pressures cont..

3 For high pressure systems, Pressure relief
valves shall be set to open at a pressure no
greater than 5 psi above the pressure
rating of the pipe or the lowest pressure
rated component in the system.
4 The Handbook of PVC Pipe (Uni-bell, 1977)
states that In general, system operating
pressure (static pressure plus surge
pressure ) should not exceed 150% of the
pipe pressure rating or pressure class.

What causes varying


Closing a valve
Opening a valve
Rhythmic valve operation
Starting a pump
Stopping a pump
Movement of air pockets
Sudden release of air
Sudden halt in flow when air has been
Recombination after water-column separation

Critical time
Critical time = 2L/a
Valve or pump closure should be
greater than critical
The last 20% of valve closure most
critical. Very dependent on type of

What Really Happens?

Simple Valve

Wave Diagram t=0 to 2L/a

Wave Diagram t= 2L/a to 4L/a

How fast is the pressure

Wave speed based on two things
Bulk modulus of elasticity of the fluid,
usually water.
Bulk modulus of elasticity of the pipe

How to compute surge

h = change in pipe pressure head
* v ag == wave
speed of gravity
v = change in velocity
k D
1 * *(1 u 2 )
E e

K = bulk modulus elasticity of fluid ( water = 300,000 psi)

E = modulus of elasticity of pipe material
D = inside pipe diameter (in)
e = Pipe wall thickness (in)
u = Poissions ratio (PVC = .45)

Another way is nomographs

What happens if there are

multiple pipes?

The Procedure here is to convert the

series pipe to an equivalent uniform pipe

L L1 L2


a1 a1 a2


Branching Pipelines


P1(2a1a2 A1)
(a2a3 A1 a1a3 A2 a1a2 A3)

Effects From Air Movement

When an air pocket becomes
suddenly dislodged, as by a stream
of flowing water, the extent of
changes in local fluid velocities
and the consequent waterhammer
pressures are often much in excess
of instantaneous closure.

Pressure Rating
Pressure rating can changed
based on hoop stress and number
of cycles

Pressure Rating Over Time

PVC PIPE Hoop Stress vs Cycles to Failure

H oop Stress (psi)






Cycles to Failure



Compute the head increase due to instantaneous
stoppage of water initially flowing at 5.0 fps in an 10
inch, 80 psi, PIP pieline, a = 860
If the static head at the point of stoppage is 55.0 psi,
what is the total pressure acting on the pipe at the
moment of stoppage?
What is the hoop stress developed at the moment of
If this Hoop stress will occur twice each day, and at
each occurrence there are 8 stress cycles of this
approximate magnitude, and if the irrigation season is
90 days long, how many years can this pipe be
expected to last before failure due to stress cycles?

Actual surge analysis is generally much more
complicated than the simple example.
The most practical method of solutions is to
understand the available protection hardware
and to install that equipment at enough
locations and with reasonable settings.
A fact of life which makes this approach
almost necessary is that irrigation systems
tend to be added to or changed with time
until they may only vaguely resemble the
original design.