What is Pump Cavitation? How to Avoid Cavitation?

Pumps play a vital role in various industries, from water supply systems to oil refineries. However, even the most efficient pumps can experience a phenomenon called pump cavitation. In this article, we will explore what pump cavitation is, its causes, effects, and most importantly, how to avoid it.


Pump cavitation refers to the formation and collapse of vapor bubbles within a pump’s impeller due to low pressure conditions. These vapor bubbles form when the pressure of the liquid being pumped drops below its vapor pressure. As the bubbles move to areas of higher pressure, they collapse violently, causing significant damage to the pump and reducing its efficiency.

Understanding Pump Cavitation

To understand pump cavitation better, let’s delve into its working mechanism. When a pump operates, it creates a low-pressure region at the eye of the impeller. If the liquid pressure drops below the vapor pressure, it can no longer maintain its liquid state, leading to the formation of vapor bubbles. As these bubbles travel towards regions of higher pressure, such as the pump’s outlet, they collapse, causing shockwaves that damage the pump’s internal components.

cavitation pump

Causes of Pump Cavitation

Several factors contribute to pump cavitation. One common cause is inadequate net positive suction head (NPSH), which occurs when the pressure at the pump’s inlet drops below the required level. This can happen due to factors like high suction lift, undersized suction pipes, or excessive system losses.

Another cause is an impeller that is not properly designed for the specific operating conditions. If the impeller’s design does not handle the fluid’s flow rate or has sharp edges, it can lead to pressure drops and subsequent cavitation.

Effects of Pump Cavitation

Pump cavitation can have severe consequences on both the pump and the entire system. Firstly, it causes erosion and damage to the impeller, resulting in reduced pump performance and efficiency. The implosion of vapor bubbles creates intense shockwaves that erode the impeller’s surface over time.

Additionally, cavitation can lead to excessive noise and vibration, which not only affects the pump but also compromises the stability of surrounding structures. Furthermore, the presence of vapor bubbles in the pumped fluid can cause flow disruptions, leading to decreased flow rate and potentially damaging downstream equipment.

Identifying Pump Cavitation

Detecting pump cavitation is crucial to address the issue promptly. Some common signs of pump cavitation include abnormal noise, such as a rattling or grinding sound, vibration, and decreased pump performance. Visual inspection of the pump impeller may reveal cavitation-related damage, such as pitting or erosion marks.

Consequences of Ignoring Cavitation

Ignoring pump cavitation can result in costly repairs, decreased equipment lifespan, and even system failures. The erosion caused by cavitation will progressively worsen over time, leading to reduced pump efficiency and increased energy consumption. Eventually, the impeller may become severely damaged, necessitating its replacement or complete pump overhaul.

How to Avoid Pump Cavitation

Preventing pump cavitation is crucial for maintaining pump performance and prolonging its lifespan. Here are some effective strategies to avoid cavitation:

1. Proper Pump Selection

Ensure that the pump is selected correctly for the specific application. Consider factors such as the required flow rate, pressure, and net positive suction head (NPSH) available.

2. Optimal Operating Conditions

Maintain optimal operating conditions by monitoring the pump’s discharge pressure, suction pressure, and system temperature. Avoid operating the pump at the extreme ends of its performance curve, as it increases the likelihood of cavitation.

3. Regular Maintenance

Implement a proactive maintenance program to inspect and service the pump regularly. This includes checking for impeller wear, ensuring proper alignment, and replacing damaged components. Regular maintenance helps identify and address potential cavitation issues before they escalate.


Pump cavitation can have detrimental effects on pump performance and system integrity. Understanding its causes, effects, and how to prevent it is crucial for smooth operation and longevity of the pumping system. By following proper pump selection procedures, maintaining optimal operating conditions, and implementing regular maintenance practices, pump cavitation can be effectively avoided.


Q: Can any type of pump experience cavitation?

A: While cavitation can occur in various types of pumps, centrifugal pumps are particularly susceptible due to their operating principles.

Q: Can pump cavitation cause sudden pump failure?

A: Yes, severe cavitation can lead to sudden pump failure, especially if left unaddressed for a prolonged period.

Q: Are there any specific fluids that are more prone to cavitation?

A: Yes, fluids with low vapor pressure, such as hot water or volatile liquids, are more prone to cavitation.

Q: Can cavitation be completely eliminated?

A: While complete elimination of cavitation is challenging, proper design, maintenance, and operating practices can minimize its occurrence.

Q: What are the long-term consequences of pump cavitation?

A: Over time, pump cavitation can lead to reduced pump efficiency, increased energy consumption, and damage to impellers and other components.

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