System Commissioning for Topical Concrete Coatings used for Algae Resistant Linings for Canals

Project ID: 23036
Principal Investigator: Jeffery Keim
Research Topic: Repair and Maintenance
Funded Fiscal Years: 2023 and 2024
Keywords: None

Research Question

Can chemical and physical characteristics of concrete surface treatments inhibit or reduce the algae growth on concrete 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. Based on previous research summarized in S&T Research Final Report No. ST-2019-PROJECT ID 19242-REPORT NUMBER 01 Algae Resistant Linings for Canals and Other Water Resource Structures, there is demonstrated evidence that several products may be effective at reducing the algae growth on concrete lined canals. With the previous knowledge gained, we can apply targeted products to the concrete panels and verify the findings out lined in the previous research.

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 and algae growth within the canal systems creates a maintenance and operational challenge. This research, in partnership with the Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District, would not only be applicable to their irrigation areas, but it is expected that most canals throughout Reclamation's Inventory experiencing nuisance algae would also benefit. Existing capabilities for algae prevention and removal include mechanical removal, chemical (pestiside_ treatment, UV treatments (limited and also in early development). As ageing infrastructure, such as concrete canals panel are replaced, and when new sections of earthen canals are lined with concrete for water conservation and safety, algae resistant concrete could be applied with relatively little change to standard concrete placement procedures. Testing the success of these treatments on a larger scale will add to our current knowledge in this field. The benefits include less environmental risk from using pesticides, lower operational risk / safety risk by stopping the increasing water surface elevations which result from algae accumulation on the channel flow, lower operation and maintenance costs for removing the algae, and improved reliability of water deliveries. Reclamation's current methods to reduce the nuisance algae are labor intensive and expensive and can introduce chemicals into the irrigated crops that may be unwanted by the landowner. If copper sulfate is used to control algae, some farmers will close their irrigation gates so as to not allow the treated water into their fields until the copper sulfate treated water has passed creating water delivery issues.

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 residential pesticides. 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.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20