Investigation of Innovative Exposed Lining Systems

Project ID: 23012
Principal Investigator: Brian Baumgarten
Research Topic: Repair and Maintenance
Funded Fiscal Years: 2023 and 2024
Keywords: None

Research Question

Through advanced weathering laboratory testing and a field study researchers will provide evidence to support the continued use of exposed HDPE liners, or the future use of new cutting-edge liner options.

Is HDPE, which has been utilized as a liner material since the 1960's, still the best option for an exposed liner material that we have available to us today? Can researchers discover correlations between laboratory advanced weathering testing data and field performance, hereby in creating superior canal, reservoir, and pond liner specifications moving forward?

Need and Benefit

The need for this research lies in its ability to determine if HDPE should still be the exposed liner material of choice. HDPE geomembrane liners have been utilized since the 1960's. New cutting-edge technologies are available to the industry but have yet to be tested in long-term lab and field studies. With so many regions managed by Reclamation experiencing yearly drought issues, these new liner technologies could potentially allow for much needed water savings. They could also provide more easily accessible solutions to water seepage through reservoirs, ponds, and canals. Exposed liners are cheaper than covered liners to install. If these liners prove to be more durable than HDPE, and carry the same or less financial burden, the impact would be substantial. With increased water savings there will be more resources available for irrigation districts, citizens, and for hydroelectric power generation. The drought issues our country faces do not seem to be going away any time soon. This is one much needed method to protect one of the most valuable resources we have.

If this research is not performed, Reclamation, and other end users of liner materials, will continue to use HDPE liners when there are potentially more economical and superior solutions available. This will result in higher levels of water seepage, less energy production, and less water available for irrigation districts. If this research is not funded Reclamation will continue to utilize a liner material in HDPE, that although performs well, is an older technology that has likely since been surpassed. Also, the new technologies that are being researched for this study require little to no subgrade preparation and are easier to install. This will make irrigation districts and regions that up until this point were hesitant to invest in liners, rethink their opinion. If more liners are installed in the field water savings would be substantial.

This research will help accomplish Reclamation's mission to assist in meeting the increasing water demands of the West, by potentially discovering a better and cheaper alternative to current liner options. It will also aide in meeting the goals of the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency plans. By finding a liner material that is easy to install, cheaper, requires little to no subgrade preparation, and can be utilized in all of Reclamations service environments, Reclamation regions will be more likely to utilize liners to prevent seepage. The more liners that are installed throughout Reclamation's regions the more water is saved, and the more hydroelectric power can be generated.

In the immediate future the main benefit will be implementation of a new higher performing liner option for Reclamation projects involving canals, reservoirs, and ponds. The long-term impact of this research is twofold. First, proving that a cheaper and better liner system is available will increase accessibility to liners and make more regions interested in utilizing them. This in the long term will allow Reclamation as a whole to keep up with water demands. Secondly, this will make the case for further research in the area which will drive the industry forward and ensure Reclamation is utilizing the best and most cutting-edge liner technologies available.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20