Bureau of Reclamation

 30,873

Water America's Crops Challenge

Help us improve the reliability of water delivery for America’s crops by advancing methods to reduce water seepage in canals.

This challenge is closed

stage:
Phase 2 Development Period Begins
prize:
$360,000

This challenge is closed

Partners
Overview

Challenge Overview

DEADLINE EXTENDED + REVISED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY TERMS

--

For more than 100 years, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has brought water to arid lands to support agriculture and economic development. Today, Reclamation’s 8,000 miles of canals deliver water across the Western U.S., serving over 30 million customers and 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation's vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.

As water is conveyed by a canal from the source to customers, some water losses (such as from evaporation) are inevitable. However, a much more significant and preventable type of loss is seepage of water from a canal into the ground. Seepage represents the most significant cause of water loss in canals, reducing the efficiency of water deliveries and increasing costs for Reclamation and its customers. Moreover, if not adequately addressed, seepage can result in a canal failure over the long term.

The $360,000 Water America’s Crops Challenge seeks to incentivize new approaches to minimizing seepage in canals that are cost-effective for the farmers and communities that Reclamation serves. The challenge is designed to accelerate development of new solutions and validate performance on criteria that will be critical for field testing and future deployment.

The challenge will have two (2) phases over 24 months. In Phase 1, solvers will have six months after the challenge launch to submit technical proposals describing their solution, including expected performance on key criteria of effectiveness, durability, maintenance requirements, installation requirements, and cost. Up to five (5) finalists will be chosen to develop a prototype (lab-scale) version of their solution in Phase 2 for testing at Reclamation labs. Finalists will have nine (9) months to develop their prototypes, and each finalist will receive $50,000 to support solution development. Following laboratory testing in Phase 2, a judging panel will evaluate the results, and determine the winner(s). Up to one (1) first place winner will receive $90,000 and one (1) runner-up will receive $20,000. Winners are expected to be announced in January 2023.

Click the Guidelines tab to learn more about this challenge and help us Water America’s Crops!

Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines were updated on March 29, 2021 (See details here). 

Deadline extended and intellectual property terms revised on June 15, 2021 (see details here). 

Background

For more than 100 years, Reclamation has brought water to arid lands for agricultural and economic development. Today, Reclamation operates 8,116 miles of canals that deliver water across six regions of the Western U.S. (see map), serving over 30 million customers and 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation's vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.

As water is conveyed by a canal from the source to customers, some water losses are inevitable. Evaporation of water into the air and transpiration (or absorption) of water into nearby plant life create very minimal water losses along canals. However, the most significant type of water loss in canals is seepage of water through the base or walls of a canal into the subsurface or subgrade. Seepage may be diffuse (through permeable soils), concentrated (through bedrock fractures), or some combination thereof. Rates of seepage can be affected by many factors, including:

  • Whether a canal is lined;
  • The material used for lining (e.g. concrete or plastic);
  • The composition of the subsurface or subgrade (e.g. fine-grained soil, coarse soil, or various types of bedrock);
  • The level of the groundwater table; and
  • Climatic conditions including temperature, humidity, and precipitation.

Seepage that is not adequately addressed can result in canal failure. In addition, efficient and effective use of water resources becomes even more critical as populations grow and communities face more extreme droughts, floods, and other climate impacts. 

Typically, customers and communities that receive water deliveries must pay project costs for operation and maintenance, and addressing repair and maintenance of aging infrastructure can be expensive. As a result, the cost-effectiveness of any solution to water seepage from canals is a key criteria for successful deployment across communities that Reclamation serves. 

Reclamation continues to evaluate and improve canal infrastructure by examining a variety of methods and technologies to address seepage. The key criteria necessary for a successful solution include: 

  • Effectiveness at reducing seepage
  • Durability over time and in various environmental conditions
  • Minimal maintenance requirements
  • Ease of installation in a variety of environmental conditions and locations
  • Cost-effectiveness (including both cost of materials and costs related to the other four performance criteria)

Based on Reclamation’s analysis and experience in the field, some existing approaches perform very well on certain criteria, but no existing approaches achieve excellent performance on all of the criteria. Table 1 below summarizes Reclamation’s findings regarding the performance of several existing methods for reducing water seepage from canals. 

In this challenge, Reclamation seeks solutions that improve upon the performance results described in Table 1. We seek to accelerate new ideas and approaches by leveraging Reclamation labs to validate key performance criteria and identify solutions that will be cost-effective for the farmers and communities. 

Help us harness the power of innovation to ensure reliable water delivery to farmers and rural communities for the next 100 years. Let’s Water America’s Crops!

 

Table 1: Summary of Typical Canal Lining Methods for Reducing Seepage

Method

Pros

Cons

Fluid-applied Membrane Lining
  • Potentially last longer than typical high density polyethylene (HDPE) membranes.
  • Potential easy installation and maintenance
  • Certain types can withstand heavy machinery
  • Failed in several tests during Reclamation research studies
  • Certain types can be susceptible to uplift
Concrete alone (Shotcrete) Lining
  • Excellent durability (40-60 yrs)
  • Easy maintenance for irrigation districts
  • Only 70% effectiveness
  • Medium cost (relative)
Exposed Geomembrane Lining
  • Excellent effectiveness (90%)
  • Low cost (relative)
  • Durability varies significantly with service conditions (5-40 years) and therefore is a less reliable solution
  • Susceptible to mechanical damage from animal traffic, construction equipment, and vandalism
  • Difficult for irrigation districts to maintain because of unfamiliarity with geomembrane materials, and the need for special equipment to perform repairs
Geomembrane with Concrete Cover Lining
  • Excellent effectiveness (95%)
  • Excellent durability (40-60 yrs)
  • Reliable performance regardless of service conditions.
  • Easy for irrigation districts to maintain the concrete cover; geomembrane underliner requires little/no maintenance.
  • High cost (relative)

 

Challenge Structure and Timeline

The Challenge will have two (2) phases over 24 months. In Phase 1, solvers will have six months after the challenge launch to submit technical proposals. Up to five (5) finalists will be chosen to move onto Phase 2. In Phase 2, finalists will have nine (9) months to develop a prototype and deliver it to Reclamation labs for testing. Following laboratory testing in Phase 2, a judging panel will evaluate the results and determine the winner(s). Winners are expected to be announced in January 2023. A showcase event is expected to be held following the end of Phase 2.

Challenge launch (February 4, 2021)

Phase 1 (January - September 2021 - 9 months) 

  • Phase 1 submissions due (July 15, 2021 - 21 weeks)
  • Phase 1 evaluations (July 15 - September 30, 2021 - 11 weeks)
  • Phase 1 winners announced (September 30, 2021)

Phase 2 (September 2021 - January 2023 - 15 months)

  • Phase 2 development period (September 30, 2021 - July 7, 2022 - 40 weeks)
  • Phase 2 submissions due (July 7, 2022)
  • Phase 2 evaluations (July 7, 2022 - February 2, 2023 - 30 weeks)
  • Phase 2 winners announced (February 2023)

Showcase event (March/April 2023)

Prizes and Incentives

A total of up to $360,000 available in prize purses, as described in the table below. Phase 1 prize money will be paid out in two installments. The first installment of $35,000 will be issued at the start of Phase 2. The remaining $15,000 will be issued upon successful completion of a mutually agreed-upon milestone at the Phase 2 mid-point (January 2022). 

Phase

Prize Purses

Total Purse

Phase 1

$50,000 x 5 finalists

$250,000

Phase 2

$90,000 1st place

$20,000 Runner-up

$110,000

In addition:

  • During Phase 2, each finalist will have access to 10 hours of time with a Bureau of Reclamation subject matter expert. Reclamation and HeroX will work with finalists to determine the most appropriate and helpful individual during solution development.
  • Following the end of Phase 2, each finalist will receive a data report including all laboratory tests conducted by Reclamation in Phase 2 and the performance results of their prototype for each test.
  • After the end of Phase 2, Reclamation intends to hold a showcase event where the finalists will have an opportunity to present to Reclamation customers and communities. Elements of the showcase event may be recorded and broadcast online and/or made available to irrigation districts and other Reclamation stakeholders after the event. The showcase event may be held in conjunction with Reclamation’s annual “Water Management Workshop,” in February/March 2023.
  • Over the long term, Reclamation is seeking partners to demonstrate and conduct field testing in communities that Reclamation serves.

Intellectual Property Rights

It is the Bureau of Reclamation’s preference that innovators commercialize their own technology and make it available to the Bureau of Reclamation through a commercial contract, or other terms. Nonetheless, the government also seeks a license to intellectual property contained within the winning submissions.   These licenses ensure the government has access to further develop the technologies if they are not further developed by the innovators themselves. 

Innovators who are awarded a prize for their submission must agree to grant the US Government a royalty-free license to use their submission. The terms of this license are available in the Challenge-Specific Agreement. 

 

How do I win?

To be eligible for an award, you must:

  • Submit all elements described in the Submission Form sections below by the applicable deadlines
  • Meet or exceed the Minimum Score in each Phase, as described below
  • Address all of the Judging Criteria described below
  • Rank higher than your competitors!

Phase 1 Submission Form

All elements of the Phase 1 submission must be completed and submitted by the deadline, June 24, 2021 at 5:00 pm EDT.

  1. Proposal title: Title for the technical proposal that may be displayed on the challenge website or in promotional materials
  2. Video Elevator Pitch: Brief and compelling video pitch to the judging panel describing the 1) technical approach; 2) how/why the approach is better than current technologies; 3) value to Reclamation and the customers/communities it serves. Max 1 minute in length.
    1. Please upload your video to Youtube or Vimeo and then copy the link into the submission form
  3. Describe the Effectiveness of the Solution: Narrative description of the effectiveness of the solution in reducing canal seepage, including % reduction in seepage compared to an unlined canal (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  4. Describe the Durability of the Solution: Narrative description of the durability of the solution, including: 1) performance in temperatures ranging from -40F to 140F; 2) resilience to erosion, abrasion, impact, and vibration; and 3) expected lifetime in years (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  5. Describe the Maintenance Requirements of the Solution: Narrative description and supporting documentation describing the maintenance required after the solution is installed, including: 1) annual maintenance required (if any); 2) all maintenance required over the expected lifetime of the solution; 3) any specialized expertise needed to conduct maintenance at any point over the lifetime of the solution (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  6. Describe How the Solution Would Be Installed in a Canal: Narrative description of how the solution would be installed in a canal, including: 1) installation in a canal with a) fine-grained soil; b) rocky subgrade; and c) a high groundwater table; 2) whether/how the solution can be installed while the canal is operating; 3) estimated duration of installation for 1 mile of canal; and 4) any potential environmental impacts inside the canal footprint during or after installation (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  7. Describe the Cost of Materials: Cost estimate for materials required to build/manufacture the solution per square foot of canal (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  8. Development Plan: PDF document addressing: 1) current TRL of the solution; 2) plan for developing the technology to sufficient maturity for testing in Phase 2; 3) assessment of technical and other risks and risk mitigation strategy; 4) description of any anticipated challenges with testing the prototype at Reclamation labs; 5) engagement plan describing how Reclamation can educate the communities it serves about the solution and help ensure its deployment in the future; 6) biographical information (education, professional experience, and any other relevant information) for each team member. (max 5 page PDF document)
  9. Phase 2 Mid-Point Milestone: Description of a proposed technical milestone for the Phase 2 mid-point (Jan 2022). The second installment of Phase 1 prize money will be issued at the Phase 2 mid-point upon successful completion of a mutually agreed-upon technical milestone. (max 2,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  10. Other Supporting Data and Documentation (Optional): Solvers may submit up to three (3) additional files (e.g. data, modeling, illustrations, or other documentation) to support the descriptions and claims of the technical proposal. This submission element is optional. Each file can be no larger than 20MB. Any document containing additional narrative may be no longer than five (5) pages.

Phase 1 Judging Criteria

In Phase 1, solvers will be judged on the submission elements described above. The judging panel will consider how well each submission element addresses the goals of the challenge (as described in the Background section of these guidelines), as well as the completeness and credibility of each element. Solvers will receive up to a maximum score for each element, as described below. In order to be eligible for a prize purse, solvers must meet or exceed a Minimum Score of 60 points.

Element 

Maximum Points 

(100 total)

Elevator Pitch

5

Effectiveness of the Solution

20

Durability of the Solution

20

Maintenance Requirements of the Solution

20

How the Solution Would Be Installed in a Canal

10

Cost of Materials

10

Development Plan

15

 

Phase 2 Submission Form

All elements of the Phase 2 submission described in the table below must be completed and submitted by the deadline, June 16, 2022 at 5:00 pm EDT. In addition, solvers must ship their prototype to the Bureau of Reclamation laboratory facility c/o Evan Lindenbach, Building 56, Room 1410, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225 by the submission deadline, June 16, 2022 at 5:00 pm EDT. Additional information and requirements regarding delivery of the prototype will be provided on the challenge website after the opening of Phase 2.

  1. Updated Proposal Title: Title for the prototype solution that may be displayed on the challenge website or in promotional materials
  2. Video Elevator Pitch: Brief and compelling video pitch to Reclamation customers and communities describing why customers should adopt the solution and how it will address their needs and budget. Max 1 minute in length.
    1. Please upload your video to Youtube or Vimeo and then copy the link into the submission form
  3. Installation Demonstration Video: Video demonstrating at a lab/bench scale how the solution would be installed 1) in a canal with a) fine-grained soil; b) rocky subgrade; and c) a high groundwater table; 2) whether/how the solution can be installed while the canal is operating; 3) estimated duration of installation for 1 mile of canal 4) any potential environmental impacts inside the canal footprint during or after installation. Max 7 minutes in length.
    1. Please upload your video to Youtube or Vimeo and then copy the link into the submission form
  4. Updated Maintenance Requirements: Narrative addressing the maintenance required after the solution is installed, including: 1) annual maintenance required (if any); 2) all maintenance required over the expected lifetime of the solution; 3) any specialized expertise needed to conduct maintenance at any point over the lifetime of the solution (max 5,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  5. Updated Cost of Materials: Updated cost estimate for materials required to build/manufacture the solution for 1) 100 feet of canal; 2) 1 mile of canal; and 3) 100 miles of canal. (max 3,000 characters, embedded images and figures allowed)
  6. Commercialization Plan (PDF upload): Narrative addressing: 1) projected development plan, timeline, and budget for readying the solution for field testing following the end of the challenge; 2) proposed business plan for commercializing the solution if field testing is successful; 3) assessment of technical risks, business risks, and/or regulatory risks associated with commercialization; 4) marketing plan for engaging with irrigation districts and other potential customers, including a well-articulated value proposition; 5) biographical information (education, professional experience, and any other relevant information) for each team member. (max 5 page PDF document)
  7. Other Supporting Data and Documentation (Optional): Solvers may submit up to three (3) additional files (e.g. data, modeling, illustrations, or other documentation) to support the descriptions and claims of the technical proposal. This submission element is optional. Each file can be no larger than 20MB. Any document containing additional narrative may be no longer than five (5) pages.

 

Phase 2 Judging Criteria

In Phase 2, solvers will be judged on: 1) the submission elements described above; and 2) the performance of their prototype on the laboratory tests described below. For the submission elements described above, the judging panel will consider how well each submission element addresses the goals of the challenge (as described in the Background section of these guidelines), as well as the completeness and credibility of each element. For the laboratory tests, Reclamation will develop and post to the challenge website more specific testing protocols (including how data will be evaluated) at the beginning of Phase 2. Solvers will receive up to a maximum score for each element, as described below. In order to be eligible for a prize purse, solvers must meet or exceed a Minimum Score of 50 points.

Element 

Description of Laboratory Tests 

(if applicable)

Maximum Points 

(100 total)

Elevator PitchN/A 5
Effectiveness of the Solution

Following the Durability tests (see below), a static water column test will be used to evaluate the water retention characteristics of the prototypes.

 

20
Durability of the SolutionLaboratory scale accelerated weathering and/or durability tests at Reclamation labs, which may include 1) freeze-thaw; 2) UV radiation; 3) erosion/abrasion; 4) impact/mechanical damage; 5) high pressure jet; 7) time-dependent deformation; 8) deterioration; 9) internal/interface shear resistance; and 10) vibration test for packing performance or an earthquake event. 20
Maintenance Requirements of the SolutionN/A20
Installation Demonstration VideoN/A10
Cost of MaterialsN/A10

Commercializa-

tion Plan

N/A15

Rules

Participation Eligibility:

The Water America’s Crops Challenge is open to individuals, age 18 or older. 

Submissions must originate from either the U.S. or a designated country (see definition of designated country at https://www.acquisition.gov/far/part-25#FAR_25_003), OR have been substantially transformed in the US or designated country prior to prototype delivery pursuant to FAR 25.403(c). 

In addition, United States federal sanctions prohibit participation from individuals and teams from certain countries (see: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/Programs.aspx).

The following restrictions apply to the Challenge: (1) Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment are not eligible to participate; (2) Federal employees acting outside the scope of their employment should consult their ethics advisor before participating in the Challenge; (3) All employees of the Government, Challenge sponsors, and other individual or entity associated with the development or administration of the Challenge, as well as their family members (i.e., spouse, children, parents, siblings, other dependents) and persons living in the same household whether or not related, are not eligible to participate; (4) Contractors receiving Government funding for the same or similar projects, along with their employees, are not eligible to participate in the Challenge.

No Federal facilities or funds were used and innovator did not consult with Federal employees during the competition unless the facilities, funds and/or employees were made available to all individuals and entities participating in the competition on an equitable basis

Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement, which will be made available upon registration.

Registration and Submissions:

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before the submission deadline. All uploads must be in PDF format. No late submissions will be accepted.

Multiple submissions are permitted for Phase 1. Only one Phase 2 submission is permitted per eligible team.

Submissions will become the sponsor's property upon submission and will not be returned with the exception of Phase 2 prototypes if requested prior to prototype shipment. Reclamation may cover reasonable shipping expenses to return prototypes to innovators, if requested.

Shipping Costs:

Reclamation will cover reasonable shipping costs for Phase 2 winners to ship prototypes to Reclamation facilities. The solver may be responsible for additional fees incurred for customs clearance. 

Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.
Timeline
Updates 16

Challenge Updates

Phase 1 Winners Announced

Sept. 30, 2021, 10:02 a.m. PDT by Kyla Jeffrey

The Bureau of Reclamation is pleased to announce that five projects have been selected to each receive $50,000 for Phase 1 of the Water America’s Crops Challenge. The winners and their submissions, in no particular order, are:

  • Zlatko Rozic from Australia for their entry, Nylon reinforced geopolymer composite mix membrane 
  • Jan Beetge from Houston, Texas for their entry, Integral Waterproofing of Concrete
  • John Newport and Peter Murdoch of Team Chemventive from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania for their entry, Low Cost Long Life Elastomeric Canal Liner 
  • Michael McBride from Mexico for their entry, StickyCrete Canal Liners
  • Duo Zhang from Ann Arbor, Michigan for their entry, Bendable Concrete for Seepage Resistant Canals

Many thanks to everyone who submitted their solutions to this initial phase of the competition. The innovativeness of the entries received made it difficult for the judging panel to select the top five.

The Phase 2 development period will be starting shortly and lasting about 15 months. The winners will be developing their prototypes and delivering them to Reclamation labs to undergo testing. Once testing is completed, the Phase 2 winners will be determined once the judging panel reviews the results. A first place and runner-up winner will be awarded a total of $110,000 by early 2023. Please continue to follow the challenge to keep up with the progress!

 


8 Hours Remaining to Submit!

July 15, 2021, 6 a.m. PDT by Lulu

If you're still assembling your submission, you have exactly 8 hours left to complete it! 

Here's a Tip: HeroX recommends innovators plan to submit with at least a 3-hour window of time before the true deadline. Last-minute technical problems and unforeseen roadblocks have been the cause of many headaches. Don't let that be you!


Two Day Warning

July 13, 2021, 6 a.m. PDT by Lulu

This is your official two-day reminder!

That's right, the Water America's Crops Challenge will be closing this coming July 15th at 5:00 pm  Eastern Time (New York/USA).

Please be sure to complete your submission form well before the exact cut-off time. 

At exactly 5:00 pm ET, we can no longer accept new submissions! 

Got questions?

Now is the time to speak up! Comment directly on this update with any questions about the submission process and we'll get back to you right away! 


Five Days Left to Submit (TIPS)

July 10, 2021, 6 a.m. PDT by Lulu

We are quickly approaching the final days open for submission to the Water America's Crops Challenge. The deadline is July 15th at 5:00 pm  Eastern Time (New York/USA.) 

Here are a couple of last-minute tips for a smooth entry process:

1. Begin your submission process several days before the cutoff time. This allows you to ensure everything you have been working on can be seamlessly integrated into the form.

2. Your submission will not be reviewed until you click the orange "Submit Entry" button at the top of the final review page. Please remember to do this! 

3. Review the Challenge Guidelines to ensure your submission is complete. Pay particular attention to the judging criteria which will be the scorecard used to evaluate your entry.

4. Have any questions? Head over to the challenge forum and we would love to help you out. 

Thanks so much, and good luck to all!


Deadline Extended to July 15th

June 17, 2021, 6 a.m. PDT by Lulu

The submission deadline for the Water America's Crops Challenge has been extended to July 15th, 2021.

For more details on the extension, please see this update.


Forum 13
Teams 400
Press
FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Solve this Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, we recommend that you post it in the Forum where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.