Reclamation awards $75,000 for ideas that lower cost of continuous streamflow monitoring
Written by: Jesselyn Hamilton
Ideas awarded in the continuous streamflow monitoring competition can be applied to monitor flow in natural channels like streams and rivers as well as engineered channels like canals and aqueducts. The Bureau of Reclamation partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey for a prize competition seeking innovative ideas to significantly reduce the cost of continuous streamflow monitoring compared to current methods while also increasing the availability of streamflow data. Accurate and reliable records from continuous streamflow monitoring stations are vital to water resources planning, design, management and research. Of the 40 potential cost-saving solutions received, five winners were selected to share a total prize pool of $75,000.
"A number of compelling ideas for continuous streamflow monitoring were received," said David Raff, Reclamation’s science advisor. "This demonstrates the continued benefit of soliciting new and novel ideas from the broader public through competitions."
The prize competition sought innovative methods or technologies that could reduce the equipment and/or labor costs of streamflow monitoring. The methods proposed had to be applicable to continuous monitoring of the volumetric flow rate of water in open channels, including natural channels (e.g., streams and rivers) and engineered channels (e.g., aqueducts, canals and drainage channels). In addition, the methods had to be applicable across a wide range of flow rates, channel sizes and channel geometries.
The top placing solution was submitted by Qian Liao of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Liao will receive $25,000 for his proposal to use low-cost stream gages with a novel stereo imaging-based system for Large-Scale Particle Image Velocimetry. This system would allow reconstruction of three-dimensional (3-D) water surface topography in addition to measuring surface velocity. This solution has the potential to reduce the long-term cost of streamflow monitoring by reducing the number of required site visits compared to existing methods.
Additionally, the following solutions were also selected to receive prizes:
• Pierre Stoermer with DroneMapper of Cedaredge, Colorado, will receive $15,000 for his solution to use remote sensing of key streamflow parameters. Stoermer proposes using a 3-D imaging sensor for measuring stream stage and surface velocity and an unmanned aerial system for measuring channel cross-sectional area, slope and surface roughness.
• Daniel Buscombe, Ph.D., of Flagstaff, Arizona, will receive $15,000 for his solution to estimate stream stage and/or discharge from time-lapse photography using a deep neural network.
• Alain Trottier of Kennesaw, Georgia, will receive $10,000 for his solution to use low-cost, low-maintenance components, such as eTape as a stage sensor and an Arduino or Raspberry Pi unit as a central control unit, to carry out stage-discharge computations, data logging and communications.
• David Orlebeke of Meridian, Idaho, will receive $10,000 for his solution to use streaming potential to continuously monitor streamflow. Streaming potential is an electric potential generated by fluid moving through a porous media or relative to a fixed surface.
Since 2015, Reclamation has launched 21 prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, national solver community while also complementing traditional research in their design to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. It has awarded more than $1 million in prizes.
To learn more about this prize competition and other Reclamation hosted competitions, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/index.html.
Published on January 21, 2020