It’s raining cats and dogs – but Schiphol is prepared
What a downpour! Did you know that, on a day like this, million litres of rainwater will fall on the Schiphol site? Having that much water on the runway is an issue for all aircraft that need to take off and land. ‘Aquaplaning’ may sound as if it has something to do with aircraft, but we definitely don’t want it at our airport, so we’ve put an extensive system in place to channel away rain, hail and snow. That’s a necessary precaution in the soggy Netherlands!
How it works
Our drainage system collects water from a paved surface the size of around 1,750 football fields. That surface includes runways, taxiways, aprons and aircraft stands. As our runways have been designed with a convex shape, the water flows away from the middle towards the sides of the runway, preventing puddles from forming. Once it reaches the side of the runway, the water flows into the drain through a hole measuring just two centimetres. We have more than 140 kilometres of drainage channels at Schiphol. The system as a whole is made up of more than 10,000 manholes, over 5,500 gullies and almost 350 kilometres of underground pipes. These pipes ultimately deposit the water in ditches both on the Schiphol site and in the surrounding area.
An airport on the bottom of a lake?
It may be hard to picture it now, but the area now covered by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol used to be the Haarlemmer Lake (‘Haarlemmermeer’ in Dutch). That means our airport is located up to four metres below sea level, making it that much more important to ensure effective drainage and a stable water level. The pumps in the Haarlemmermeer polder do just that by pumping water from the ditches into the Ringvaart canal. It was these pumps that dried up the Haarlemmer Lake all those years ago, and to this day they continue to keep our feet dry at Schiphol.