Please note that the details of this Challenge are no longer open. This challenge is awarded and is no longer accepting new submissions. You can:
Challenge Detecting Leaks and Flaws in Water Pipelines – Stage 1

Detecting Leaks and Flaws in Water Pipelines – Stage 1

STATUS: Awarded
Active Solvers: 294
Posted: Mar 08 2018
Challenge ID: 9933883
Team Project Rooms are available on this Challenge. Team Share Challenge Share

The Bureau of Reclamation and its collaborators are seeking innovative methods and technology to detect leaks and flaws in buried water pipeline infrastructure.  Pipeline leaks and flaws deprive consumers of a valuable resource and necessitate costly repairs.  Currently, no practical method exists to detect leaks and flaws in large diameter operational pipelines regardless of pipe diameter and material type.  Solutions can be novel approaches or can build upon existing methods or technologies.  This Challenge launches Stage 1 of a planned two-stage Challenge that includes laboratory-scale and field-scale demonstrations.

Challenge Orientation Video: Subject matter experts from Reclamation, San Diego County Water Authority, and Southern Nevada Water Authority discuss the need for improved pipeline leak detection methods.



This web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of the Reclamation or the Department of the Interior (DOI).  The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with Reclamation or DOI unless a Solver wins the Challenge.  To collect an award, Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to Reclamation. Please consult the Challenge-Specific Solver Agreement.


Reclamation and its collaborators are seeking methods and technology that can reliably, efficiently, and cost-effectively detect leaks and flaws in buried, large-diameter, operational water pipeline infrastructure. (Note: For the purposes of this Challenge, the word “operational” should be understood to mean “containing flowing water”, either pressurized or unpressurized.)

As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier, the Reclamation builds and maintains pipelines that provide irrigation water for farmland and drinking water for household consumption.  Pipeline leaks and flaws cause the loss of a valuable resource, reduce water delivery reliability, and often necessitate long service outages and costly repairs.  Though leaks and flaws can emerge at any time in a pipeline’s lifecycle, many systems have been in service for substantial portions of their original design lifetimes; this aging pipeline infrastructure is increasingly susceptible to failure. 

Many available methods of pipeline leak and flaw detection are not practical or applicable for large diameter operational pipelines.  Advances in leak and flaw detection are needed to enable timely repairs.  Proposed solutions must be applicable to steel pipe and prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP) with diameters greater than 48 inches.  Proposed solutions that can be applied to all pipelines regardless of pipe diameter or type will be given greater weight in evaluation.  Proposed solutions must be cost effective and scalable to pipelines with lengths approximately 100 miles.



This Challenge consists of two stages:

  • Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge requiring submission of a white paper that describes novel technologies for detecting leaks and flaws in water pipelines.  Stage 1 may award up to five prizes from a total prize award pool of $75,000.
  • If Stage 1 proves successful, Stage 2 is planned as a subsequent Reduction-to-Practice (RTP) Challenge to provide proof-of-concept in a laboratory-scale and/or field-scale demonstration. Stage 2 is anticipated to have a larger prize purse than Stage 1.  In addition to the direct monetary award for Stage 2, Reclamation will invite industry, non-profit organizations, and venture capital representatives to the Stage 2 presentations and testing.  Participating industry, non-profit organization, and venture capital representatives will have the ability to seek and secure potential business deals with Solvers.  Stage 2 will be opened to the public for new submissions (not only to those who participated in Stage 1). New Solvers may be requested to provide theoretical background information equivalent to that solicited in Stage 1.

This posting only launches the Stage 1 competition. If Stage 2 is conducted, it will be officially launched and announced with a separate Challenge posting.

Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge that requires only a written proposal to be submitted. Reclamation has a total cash prize purse budget of $75,000 for Stage 1, as stated in the Challenge-Specific Solver Agreement.  The minimum full award amount is $15,000. Reclamation can allocate higher individual award amounts up to the prize purse of $75,000, as it deems appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by Reclamation and the judging panel appointed by Reclamation.  A total of up to five awards can be made for the highest ranked submissions meeting or exceeding the requirements (“Solution Requirements”) described in the Challenge details.  However, the meeting of the Solution Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will be awarded by Reclamation.  Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on May 8, 2018. Late submissions will not be considered.



After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and decide the winning solution(s). The Judging Panel may be composed of Federal and/or Non-Federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed collaborators for this Challenge.  All Solvers that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of the submissions. Decisions by Reclamation cannot be contested.



Solvers do not have to participate in Stage 1 to be eligible to participate in Stage 2. Stage 1 participants are not required to compete in Stage 2.

To receive an award, Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive intellectual property (IP) rights to Reclamation. Instead, Solvers will grant Reclamation a non-exclusive license to use and practice their solutions. Solvers who have transferred their IP rights in their solution to a third party, or otherwise entered into any commercial exclusive arrangement with another for the exploitation of their IP rights in their solution prior to the end of the Challenge shall not be eligible for a Challenge award. Please note that any proposal submitted will not be treated as confidential information.  Accordingly, Solvers should protect their proprietary rights in their solutions prior to submitting their written proposal for consideration in the Challenge (e.g. filing provisional or full patent applications on the solution described in the written proposal prior to submission). See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

This Challenge is being conducted by Reclamation under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. C. § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (PL-114-329), which states that cash prize purse awards for this Challenge 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 Reclamation before cash prize purses are awarded.  See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details. 

Cash prize purse payments: Payments will be paid in full to the eligible registered individual, entity, or team selected as a winner, as stated in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

Registering as a team:  Teams must register to compete by having the Team Leader form a Team Project Room.  The Team Leader must be a U.S. citizen, permanent U.S. resident, or representative of a U.S. entity eligible to receive a cash prize. In the case of a team registration, the cash prize purse can be split and paid directly to eligible team members as directed by the registered eligible team leader. Reclamation will not make payments to team members that are not eligible under 15 U.S.C. §3719 to receive a cash prize.

Team Project Room requests must be made no later than one (1) week prior to the Challenge deadline. Once registered, click on ‘Form a Team’ at the top of the Challenge page for further instructions.

Participation by those not eligible for cash prizes: Submissions will be accepted from all Solvers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. entities, and are eligible to receive non-cash prize awards, if any. Meritorious submissions from non-U.S. citizens, non-U.S. permanent residents, and non-U.S. entities may also be recognized in publications issued by Reclamation announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases.

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


About Reclamation:  The Bureau of Reclamation is the sponsoring agency for this prize Competition and is an agency of the United States 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.

About the Collaborators:  The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), and Isle Utilities are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. 

What is InnoCentive?
InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

What is a Theoretical-Licensing Challenge?

An InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge builds upon an idea but is not yet a proof of concept. A solution to a Theoretical Challenge will solidify the Solver's concept with detailed descriptions, specifications and requirements necessary to bringing a good idea closer to becoming an actual product or service.

This Challenge is a Theoretical-Licensing Challenge, meaning that the Seeker is requesting non-exclusive rights to use the winning solution. By contrast, Theoretical-IP Transfer means that Solvers must relinquish all rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) for which they are awarded. For these forms of a Theoretical Challenge, Solvers that do not win retain the rights to their solution after the evaluation period is complete. The Seeker retains no rights to any IP not awarded.

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