Algae Resistant Linings for Canals and Other Water Resource Structures
Can chemical and physical characteristics of concrete surfaces inhibit algae growth on canal linings and other water resource structures? An understanding in the correlation between the nature and composition of concrete with its biological characteristics would improve operation of Reclamation's water delivery facilities and have numerous environmental and safety benefits.
Need and Benefit
This research is needed to support Reclamation's ongoing operation and maintenance efforts and environmental
stewardship initiatives. Reclamation owns more than 39,100 miles of canals and laterals that serve water to 10 million
acres of farmland. As ageing infrastructure, such as canals are replaced and when new sections of earthen canals
are lined for water conservation and safety, algae resistant concrete could be applied. The benefits include less
environmental risk from using pesticides, lower operational risk / safety risk by stopping the increasing water surface
elevations, lower operation and maintenance costs for removing the algae, and improved reliability of water deliveries.
Irrigations Districts spend millions of dollars each year controlling aquatic weeds and algae in canals. The Quincy-
Columbia Basin Irrigation District alone spends over 1 million dollars annually. Other methods include biological and
mechanical, but these methods of control are costly and inefficient. There are currently no known practical
alternatives to using herbicides. The Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District spends over $200,000 a year to replace
ageing concrete infrastructure and a new concrete composite could be included into current O&M programs.
There is increased pressure to reduce the use of aquatic pesticides such as those containing copper because of
toxicity concerns toward endangered salmon and other aquatic life at low concentrations. In Washington State, for
example, regulators promulgated regulation that banned copper in boat paint, brake pads, roofing materials, and
Though aquatic pesticides will remain a necessary tool for the operation and maintenance of Reclamation's facilities,
algae resistant linings would provide numerous environmental and regulatory benefits such as decreased operation
and maintenance cost, reductions in pesticide use, and increased system reliability.
In addition to replacing ageing infrastructure, irrigators are lining canals and laterals for water conservation and energy
efficiency purposes. The Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District has lined over 65 miles of canals and conserving
546 acre-feet of water over the last 13 years. As conservation projects are realized and completed, algae resistant
linings would be utilized.
When in full bloom, untreated algae and mosses slow down flows and increase water surface elevations contributing
to a 50% loss in water delivery capacity. They also clog turnouts and sprinklers adding to the O&M cost throughout
the entire water delivery system.
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