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Bureau of Reclamation Seeking: Canal Seepage Reduction Technology Image of a canal in farmland

The US Bureau of Reclamation is seeking to learn about advancements in canal seepage reduction technologies. Ideal solutions improve on existing technologies with respect to cost, durability, performance, and installation complexity.


The Bureau of Reclamation manages water resources in the western United States, including 8,116 miles of irrigation canals. As water is conveyed by canal infrastructure from the source to customers, some water losses (such as from evaporation and transpiration) are inevitable. However, a much more significant and preventable type of loss is seepage of water from a canal through the base or walls of a canal into the subsurface or subgrade. 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. Seepage that is not adequately addressed can result in canal failure and slope stability issues. In addition, efficient and effective use for water resources is more critical as populations grow and communities face more extreme droughts, floods, and other climate impacts.



  • High performance efficiency (preventing water seepage ~100%)
  • Durability: 40–60 year lifespan when subjected to typical operations
    • Efficacy over time is an important metric; for example, what is the water seepage reduction after installation (e.g., 10, 20, 30 years, etc.)
  • Be subject to a temperature profile of –40 °F to 120 °F while operating
  • The technology has a high technology readiness level (TRL 5+) or is commercial ready
  • Cost-effective
    • This may be captured by annualized costs and would consider a system with a high initial investment, but that is also long lasting and/or require minimal maintenance
  • Able to install without significant disruptions to water delivery operations
  • No adverse environmental impacts should occur either to the canal, the surrounding areas, or end users of the water


  • The technology can be applied without dewatering the canal
  • Able to be installed in remote areas with limited access
  • Solutions that improve the ease of installing or continued operations and maintenance of seepage reduction technologies are also of interest
    • Maintenance by typical field personnel without specialized equipment


Possible Solution Areas

  • Advanced materials and coatings
  • Waterproof techniques
  • Plastics and Rubber Manufacturing
  • Agriculture
  • Innovative installation solutions
  • Concrete and concrete alternatives
  • Geomembranes
  • Canal lining designs


Desired Outcome of the Solution

This project is focused on late-stage TRL and commercially available technologies that may be available in the short term. For the long term, the Bureau of Reclamation has engaged HeroX to administer a prize competition seeking innovative solutions to reduce seepage out of canals. If you have technologies that are in the early stage or have a low technology readiness level (TRL 1-4), you are encouraged to submit your solution to:


Field of Use and Intended Applications

Solutions to reduce canal seepage which can be effectively scaled to any canal requiring maintenance/installation within the entire western half of the United States and manage all the environmental variations associated with this area.  Solutions for specific applications (rocky or smooth subgrades, solutions with specific climactic considerations, underwater conditions with a high groundwater table) will be considered but any limitations should be specified.

Previously Attempted Solutions

Based on Reclamation’s analysis and experience in the field, some existing approaches perform very well on certain criteria, but no existing approaches achieve excellent performance on all of the criteria. Existing methods for canal seepage reduction include:

  • Fluid-applied Membrane Lining
  • Concrete alone (Shotcrete) Lining
  • Exposed Geomembrane Lining
  • Geomembrane with Concrete Cover Lining


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