Indirect Estimates of Reservoir Water Storage

AWARD:  $50,000 USD
DEADLINE: May 22 2017 23:59 EDT
POSTED: Feb 22 2017
SOURCE: InnoCentive

Water storage in reservoirs behind dams is a vital component for water management, and the amount available defines the delivery of benefits from reservoirs. Available water storage, over time, decreases as sediment deposition occurs, thus decreasing the capacity for storage.  This sediment deposition, known as sedimentation, also adversely affects reservoir infrastructure operation and maintenance such as outlet works and water intakes. Assessing the loss of storage capacity currently is an expensive and time consuming process performed directly by in-field surveys.

The Bureau of Reclamation, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is seeking a cost effective method to indirectly estimate the storage capacity and/or sediment volume (storage loss) in reservoirs.

This is a Reduction-to-Practice Challenge that requires written documentation, source code, and delivery of an executable application.

Challenge Orientation Video

Subject matter experts from the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have provided this short video discussing the problem of sediment accumulation and the resulting loss of water reservoir storage capacity:

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Eligibility Requirements

This Challenge is being conducted by the Seeker under the authority of 15 USC 3719, as amended, which states that cash prize purse awards for this Prize Competition may only be given to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by the Seeker before Prizes are awarded. 

However, submissions can be entertained from all Solvers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens/entities. Meritorious submissions from non-eligible persons and entities, if any, will be recognized in publications issued by the Seeker announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases. Non-U.S citizens/permanent residents or non-U.S entities can also be included on U.S. teams and are eligible to receive non-cash prize awards, if any.  However, cash prize purses will only be awarded to persons and entities eligible to receive cash prize purses under the authority of 15 USC 3719, as amended.

Full eligibility details and other restrictions are detailed in the Challenge Specific Agreement.

Challenge ID: 9933766
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Challenge Overview


Figure 1. Paonia Dam and Reservoir, Colorado, Nov. 2014. Reservoir is drained for clearing sediment from the outlet works intake.

Figure 2. Matilija Dam, California. An extreme example of when a reservoir is full of sediment.


Reservoir sedimentation is a chronic issue facing reservoirs historically, currently, as well as into the future, if not planned for and managed. Sediment deposition in reservoirs limits the active life of reservoirs by reducing reservoir storage capacity and impacting structures such as outlet works and water intakes (Figures 1 and 2), unless managed. To date, in order to determine the magnitude and rate of sedimentation to assess current and future impacts, direct measurements, such as a bathymetric (below water) survey in combination with a topographic (above water) survey have been necessary. This process can be costly and time consuming. Several indirect methods exist to estimate sedimentation and storage loss, but each method has shortcomings in time required, cost, and/or technical capability that reduce their suitability to the Seeker.

This Challenge seeks a new method to indirectly and cost-effectively estimate the storage capacity and/or sedimentation volume of reservoirs managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Solvers may utilize a variety of publically-accessible databases suggested by the Seekers or of their own discovery and are asked to deliver an executable application/utility with a direct user interface that implements their method with minimal human setup required.

Submissions to the Challenge should include the following:

  1. A detailed description of the proposed Solution addressing specific Technical Requirements presented in the Detailed Description of the Challenge. This description should be accompanied by a well-articulated rationale.
  2. A locally executable application and corresponding documented source code implementing the proposed Solution.
  3. Proof-of-concept reservoir water storage capacity (or storage loss) estimates as outlined in the Detailed Description of the Challenge.  

The Challenge award is contingent upon theoretical evaluation and experimental validation of the submitted Solutions by the Seeker.

To receive an award, the Solvers will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions and to share and adapt (and allow others to share and adapt) the solution.  It is the Seeker’s intent to make the solution available as open source software licensable under either BSD or GPL Open Source license. See the Challenge Specific Agreement for full details. The prize purse for meeting the Technical Requirements is $50,000.  Up to an additional $25,000 may be awarded for meeting additional, but not essential criteria.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on May 22, 2017

Late submissions will not be considered.



The Bureau of Reclamation is sponsoring this competition but is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and judge this competition. The Bureau of Reclamation is an agency of the U.S. Federal Government with a mission to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public (  


The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters (

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