Rust Busters: Join the Resistance!

Submit your rust busting breakthrough to extend the life of water infrastructure in the United States!

Rustbusters promotional image.

Launch:  August 22, 2019

Awarded:  February 15, 2022

March 3, 2022  Reclamation announces Rust Busters Prize Competition second phase winners>>


December 2021 Update

Phase 2 laboratory testing is complete on the five submitted prototypes for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rust Busters prize competition.  The contest sought ideas to extend the life of water infrastructure by reducing corrosion, in particular rust, of its steel structures.  The winner of the Best Lab Performance Award goes to Micheal Ahimbisibwe and Jeremy Martinez’s for robotic spray application of coal tar enamel.  See the full report here.

Field evaluation of the prototypes at Parker Dam, California, remains underway.  A judging panel will select the final winners in February 2022 based on laboratory and field results, combined with an assessment of innovation, cost, and robustness.  The Phase 2 prize purse of up to $100,000 in award money will be shared among the final winners.


Water infrastructure in the United States is critical to the domestic economy, commerce, and resource management. There are thousands of existing hydraulic steel structures (HSS) that require regular maintenance and upkeep. Original methods to protect HSS are disfavored or no longer used due to environmental and safety concerns. Newer approaches to corrosion control suffer from higher costs, shorter service life, and reduced efficacy.

In order to address rising maintenance costs and to advance the state of the art for corrosion control, the Bureau of Reclamation, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is sponsoring this two phase Rust Busters Challenge. This Challenge seeks to identify and develop new methods for corrosion control. The Challenge sponsors are vitally interested in completely new approaches that are outside of conventional thought processes for corrosion control that can be applied to existing structures in situ. There is also interest in advancing existing technologies that can significantly improve service life, reduce costs (through innovative application methods or use of new materials), or improve performance range (through additional features such as health monitoring or self-healing).

This Rust Busters Challenge offers the opportunity for the most compelling corrosion control approaches to be evaluated and field-tested by the Challenge sponsors. In Phase 1, participants will submit a paper containing the proposed approach to corrosion control, its scientific rationale, and any supporting data. Up to 5 participants advancing to Phase 2 will each receive up to $50,000 to demonstrate their technologies using test coupons supplied by Reclamation. Test coupons and/or prototypes will be evaluated by Reclamation, and up to 3 final winners will share the final prize of $100,000. This Challenge has a total prize purse of $350,000 ($250,000 in Phase 1 and $100,000 in Phase 2). It offers a rare opportunity for Phase 2 participants to receive lab- and field-test data for their technologies and additional possibilities to continue working with Reclamation to further develop their technologies.

Immersed Hydraulic Steel Structure Corrosion Protection - Rust Busters Prize Competition
Launch News Release
Award News Release

Bobbi Jo Merten | | 303.445.2380

ARCHIVE: Long-Term Corrosion Protection of Existing Hydraulic Steel Structures - Stage 1

Last Updated: 11/4/22