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USBR launches prize competition seeking ideas to lower cost of continuous streamflow monitoring

  • USBR launches prize competition seeking ideas to lower cost of continuous streamflow monitoring

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Bureau of Reclamation
Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits.

The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a new prize competition seeking new and innovative ideas to lower the cost of continuous streamflow monitoring compared to current methods. While collecting accurate and reliable streamflow data is critical to water resources planning, management, and research, the cost of installing, operating and maintaining the stream gages has caused a decline in the existing network of stream gages. Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey are partnering on this prize competition.

In this theoretical challenge, solvers are required to develop and submit a white paper detailing their proposed method for continuous streamflow monitoring. This includes the physical principles underlying the proposed method, all equipment and operation and maintenance procedures required to implement the method, and estimated costs. In the future, there may be additional stages to this prize competition that will include lab and/or field testing.

For this first stage, Reclamation will award up to five prizes for a total purse of $75,000. Additional information on this prize competition and how to submit a solution is available at Submissions must be submitted online by April 8, 2019, by 11:59 p.m. EDT.

If there are additional stages, an additional $450,000 will be available. Stage 2 will award $150,000 and require solvers to develop a prototype that will be tested in a controlled environment such as a hydraulics laboratory, canal, regulated stream channel, or other location where flow and measurement conditions can be well regulated. Stage 3 will award $300,000 and require the prototype systems to be tested in a natural environment such as an existing stream gaging site on a natural stream or river.

The number of stream gages operated by the USGS peaked in the late 1960s and by the late 1990s it had declined by nearly 20%. Between 2000 and 2009 the USGS received funding to reactivate approximately half of the deactivated gages. But the cost of installing, operating and maintaining stream gages remains a significant challenge to federal, Tribal, state and local water agencies.

Since 2015, Reclamation has been conducting prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, national solver community while also complementing traditional research in their design to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. It has awarded more than $600,000 in prizes and has launched 17 competitions. Please visit Reclamation's Water Prize Competition Center to learn more.

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