For more than 100 years, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has brought water to arid lands to support agriculture and economic development. Today, Reclamation’s 8,000 miles of canals deliver water across the Western U.S., serving over 30 million customers and 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts.
As water is conveyed by a canal from the source to customers, some water losses (such as from evaporation) are inevitable. However, a much more significant and preventable type of loss is seepage of water from a canal into the ground. Seepage represents the most significant cause of water loss in canals, reducing the efficiency of water deliveries and increasing costs for Reclamation and its customers. Moreover, if not adequately addressed, seepage can result in a canal failure over the long term.
The $360,000 Water America’s Crops Challenge seeks to incentivize new approaches to minimizing seepage in canals that are cost-effective for the farmers and communities that Reclamation serves. The challenge is designed to accelerate development of new solutions and validate performance on criteria that will be critical for field testing and future deployment.
The challenge will have two (2) phases over 24 months. In Phase 1, solvers will have six months after the challenge launch to submit technical proposals describing their solution, including expected performance on key criteria of effectiveness, durability, maintenance requirements, installation requirements, and cost. Up to five (5) finalists will be chosen to develop a prototype (lab-scale) version of their solution in Phase 2 for testing at Reclamation labs. Finalists will have nine (9) months to develop their prototypes, and each finalist will receive $50,000 to support solution development. Following laboratory testing in Phase 2, a judging panel will evaluate the results, and determine the winner(s). Up to one (1) first place winner will receive $90,000 and one (1) runner-up will receive $20,000. Winners are expected to be announced in January 2023.