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!
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:
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:
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
|Fluid-applied Membrane Lining|
|Concrete alone (Shotcrete) Lining|
|Exposed Geomembrane Lining|
|Geomembrane with Concrete Cover Lining|
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 2 (September 2021 - January 2023 - 15 months)
Showcase event (February/March 2023)
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).
$50,000 x 5 finalists
$90,000 1st place
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.
To be eligible for an award, you must:
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.
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.
|Effectiveness of the Solution|
|Durability of the Solution|
|Maintenance Requirements of the Solution|
|How the Solution Would Be Installed in a Canal|
|Cost of Materials|
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.
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.
Description of Laboratory Tests
|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.
|Durability of the Solution||Laboratory 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 Solution||N/A||20|
|Installation Demonstration Video||N/A||10|
|Cost of Materials||N/A||10|
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.
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.
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.