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Pump and system curves are important concepts in fluid mechanics. Therefore, they are often used in the design and analysis of fluid transportation systems, such as water supply systems. Understanding pump and system curves is crucial for optimizing the performance of these systems.


A pump curve, or a performance curve, is a graphical representation of a pump’s performance characteristics. It shows how a pump behaves under various operating conditions.
The primary variables on a pump curve are the flow rate (Q) and the total head (H). So, they are the measure of the energy imparted to the fluid. The pump curve typically includes several lines, each representing the pump’s performance at a specific speed or impeller diameter.
A typical pump curve will have the following components:

  • Head vs. Flow Rate: This curve shows how the pump’s total head varies with different flow rates. The head decreases as the flow rate increases because the pump must work harder to move more fluid.
  • Efficiency vs. Flow Rate: This curve shows the efficiency of the pump at different flow rates. It helps you determine the most energy-efficient operating point for the pump.
  • Power vs. Flow Rate: This curve shows the power consumption of the pump at different flow rates. It helps you determine the power requirements for the system.
Pump and system curve
Pump and system curve


  • The system curve represents the relationship between the flow rate and the head losses in a fluid transportation system. It considers all the resistance and head losses within the system, including pipe friction, fittings, valves, and other components.
  • The system curve is usually expressed as a mathematical equation that relates the flow rate (Q) and the total head (H) in the system. The equation is derived from the principles of fluid mechanics and is typically represented as H_sys = f(Q).
  • The system curve is different for every system and is essential for determining the required pump performance to meet the system’s demands. 
  • It can be calculated based on the specific characteristics of the system components.
  • The intersection point of the pump curve and the system curve is the operating point of the pump within the system.


  • HVAC Systems: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems use pump and system curves to control the flow and pressure of fluids through buildings to maintain comfortable indoor environments.
  • Chemical and Process Industries: Chemical plants and industrial processes often require precise control of fluid flow and pressure. Because of that, these industries often use pumps to design and operate systems.
  • Municipal Sewer Systems: Wastewater treatment plants and sewer systems use pump and system curves to move and manage sewage and wastewater efficiently.
  • Environmental Engineering: Pump and system curves play a role in managing and controlling water levels in rivers, and lakes, as well as in flood control systems.
  • Power Generation: In power plants, cooling water systems and steam generation systems rely on pump and system curves to ensure the proper circulation of water and other fluids.


In summary, understanding pump and system curves is essential for selecting the right pump for a given system and ensuring that the system operates efficiently and effectively. Engineers use these curves to make informed decisions about pump selection and energy efficiency optimization. By matching the pump’s performance to the system’s requirements, you can achieve the desired fluid transport goals while minimizing energy consumption and operational costs.


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