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water pipeline in the forest

The US Bureau of Reclamation is seeking to identify state-of-the-art technologies that can precisely detect the location and severity of leaks and other related flaws in buried and operating water pipelines. Ideal solutions should be non-destructive/minimally invasive techniques or technologies that can identify damage, regardless of the infrastructure’s size, depth of burial, pipe material or interior lining.


The US Bureau of Reclamation has a network of over 20,000 miles of buried water conveyance pipelines which deliver water throughout the western United States.  Pipeline components, such as joints, fittings, valves, and individual pipe sections, are subject to leakage due to damage, corrosion, and other types of degradation. Swift and precise detection of leaks in subterrain water pipelines will enable a more efficient infrastructure maintenance, while allowing the conservation of finite water resources and a more reliable service to the American public.



  • Precise Detection– Efficiently inspect buried pipelines to precisely determine leak location and severity
  • Versatile – Identify leaks in multiple pipe types, including metallic, plastic, concrete and composite
  • Robust – Solutions must be able to inspect the pipe while it is in service (pressurized, flowing water in pipe) and overcome operational complications such as limited pipe entry points, diameter changes, elevation changes, or lateral bends
  • Verifiable – The solution must be verifiable to demonstrate leak detection



  • Identify leaks in buried pipelines carrying raw and treated water
  • Solutions are preferred to be non-destructive/minimally invasive
  • Cost-effective


Possible Solution Areas:

  • Sensors and monitors
  • Electrical and Electronics Manufacturing
  • Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning
  • Robotics
  • Internet of Things
  • Chemistry and Chemical Engineering


Desired outcome of the solution:

Develop an understanding of the available techniques and technologies and identify future trends and research. Open to both cutting-edge commercial solutions in the industry and early-stage research in academia.


Previously attempted solutions:

The US Bureau of Reclamation previously held a prize competition titled “Detecting Leaks and Flaws in Water Pipelines – Stage 1.” The prize competition launched in March 2018 and was awarded in January 2019. In total, Stage 1 brought in 54 solutions with prizes being awarded to 4 participants.


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Image by Alexander Jauk from Pixabay


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