Sink or Swim

Puming Station Woudagemaal keeps Friesland dry.

From our editor Annette Schimmel

04-05-2006 The town of Lemmer is Friesland is home to the pumping station ir. D. F. Woudgemaal. Since its inclusion on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1998, thousands of tourists are attracted each year to the steam-driven pumping station. The pumping station still runs on a regular basis, pumping water into the IJsselmeer. The Woudagemaal was built in 1920 to pump out excess water in Friesland.

Lake Sneeker Meer

The steam-driven engines have a pumping capacity of around 4 million litres of water per minute. At this rate it would take about two days to pump dry a lake the size of the Sneeker Meer. On average the pumping station takes six hours to start up and get up to speed, which is why it is not used very often these days. annually, the pumps work an average of 400 hours, spread throughout the year. It takes nine engineers to operate the pumping station, working in three-man shifts of eight hours. The most recent working of the pumping station was on 7 and 8 March 2006.
A Pumping Station (Dutch: Gemaal) is an installation used to maintain the water level in a given area. Excess water is pumped into storage basins or natural or man-made waterways, from where it eventually reaches the sea. Storage basin (Dutch: Boezem). The storage basin or resevoir contains the overflow of surface water which has been pumped out of the surrounding area. It is usually part of a polder (area of land where the water level is artificially maintained). The water level in the storage basin fluctuates according to need. Generally speaking, the water in the storage basin is pumped directly into the IJsselmeer or into rivers leading to the sea.


Whenever water needs to be pumped from the Frieze boezem (storage basin), it is cheaper and more practical to engage the pumping station J.L. Hooglandgemaal before switching on the Woudagemaal. The electric pumping station in Stavoren was opened in 1966, and can be engaged simply by pressing a switch. Besides this, the Hooglandgemaal pumping station has a capacity thirty percent larger than that of the Woudagemaal pumping station.


Steam remains the sole power source of the Woudagemaal. The steam is produced in four giant boilers in the boiler room. Nowadays the boilers are oil-fired, but up until 1967 coal was used. The steam provides energy to power the steam engines which pump the excess water away. The steam engines, with their enormous fly-wheels, are housed in the engine room. Next to the engines are eight centrifugal pumps. The excess water in the storage basin which needs to be pumped away is sucked in to the pumps via a large pipeline, and from there it is pumped into the IJsselmeer.

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The rich history of the Woudagemaal Pumping Station

A visit to the Woudagemaal Pumping Station

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