Reclamation Launches Competition for Ideas to Lower Cost of Continuous Streamflow Monitoring

By on March 2, 2019
California Drought Water Reclamation Program

A new competition seeking fresh and innovative ideas to lower the cost of continuous streamflow monitoring has been announced by the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are partnering on this prize competition.

Competition participants will be required to develop and submit a white paper detailing their proposed method for continuous streamflow monitoring while still collecting accurate and reliable streamflow data. This data is critical to water resources planning, management, and research. But current data collection methods of installing, operating and maintaining stream gages have proven costly and resulted in a decline in the existing network of stream gages.

Submission of the required white paper for this theoretical challenge should include the physical principles underlying the proposed method, all equipment, and operation and maintenance procedures required to implement the method. An estimated cost summary of the proposed method should also be included.

Reclamation will be awarding up to five prizes for a total purse of $75,000 for this first stage of the challenge. Although not guaranteed, there may be additional stages in the future for this prize competition that will include lab and/or field testing.

If additional stages to the continuous streamflow monitoring competition are made available an additional $450,000 will be made available. Stage 2 would target $150,000 in prize funds and Stage 3 will award $300,000.

The USGS has said that the number of stream gages they operate peaked in the late 1960s. By the late 1990s operational stream gages had declined by nearly 20 percent. Although the USGS received funding between 2000 and 2009 to reactivate approximately half of the deactivated gages it remains a significant challenge to federal, Tribal, state and local water agencies to install, operate and maintain stream gages.

If Reclamation proceeds with Stages 2 and 3 of the prize competitions the second stage will require competitors 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 require the prototype systems to be tested in a natural environment such as an existing stream gaging site on a natural stream or river.

Competitors who wish to submit a Stage 1 white paper detailing a proposed method for continuous streamflow monitoring must enter their submission online by April 8, 2019, by 11:59 p.m. EDT. Additional information on this prize competition and how to submit a white paper solution is available at

This competition is part of Reclamation’s prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, national problem solver community while complementing traditional research as part of their effort to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. These competitions have awarded more than $600,000 in prizes and has launched 17 competitions since 2015. Please visit Reclamation’s Water Prize Competition Center to learn more. To learn more about Reclamation’s efforts in resolving specific problems go to Reclamation’s Water Prize Competition Center at: