Canal Near Crops

Canal Near Crops

Water American's Crops Challenge

Open Date: February 4, 2021

Submission Deadline: July 15, 2021 5:00 pm ET (CLOSED)

Awards: $360,000 in total prizes

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As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier, the Bureau of Reclamation provides irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60 percent of the nation's vegetables and 25 percent of its fresh fruit and nuts.   To supply the needed water, Reclamation maintains and operates over 8,000 miles of water distribution systems that use, among other means, reservoirs and canals to store and deliver water.  Water lost to seepage reduces the efficiency of the water delivery to the users and  can cause undermining/erosion, subgrade soil migration, adverse vegetation growth, and even canal failure.

To reduce water seepage, linings consisting of materials such as compacted clay, concrete, geosynthetics (e.g., HDPE, PP, PVC, EPDM), and bituminous fabrics have been installed in some canals.  Though canal linings can significantly reduce seepage (while also preventing excess weed growth that can reduce water velocity and thereby increase seepage rates), installation and ongoing maintenance can be cost prohibitive.  In addition, linings may be subject to leakage given damage from UV exposure, weather exposure, floating/dumped debris, animal traffic, tree root penetrations, soil chemistry, loss of mechanical properties (e.g., concrete cracking), etc.

This prize competition seeks innovative solutions that can reduce the costs and burdens associated with installation and maintenance of seepage reduction methods, and improve durability in a range of climatic conditions. The prototyping competition is envisioned to consist of 2 main stages comprising a white paper submission followed by a laboratory-scale demonstration.

Reclamation is partnering with Bonneville Power Administration, NASA Tournament Labs, and HeroX on this prize competition.

Please visit to learn more.

News Release: New prize competition seeks to improve reliability of water deliveries for America's crops by reducing water seeping from canals

News Release: Reclamation selects five winners to share $250,000 in prize competition to reduce water seeping from canals

Last Updated: 2/10/23