Water Authority Seeks Bright Ideas

Water Authority Seeks Bright Ideas

By Mark Muir, Board Chair
San Diego County Water Authority

From California’s earliest days as a state, innovation has been king. We’ve collectively developed world-changing ways of mining gold, telling stories through film, farming, computing and communicating.

That same innovative DNA courses through the San Diego County Water Authority, which over the past year has expanded its efforts to advance pioneering solutions to water industry challenges.

Innovation is not a new concept for the Water Authority, which helped craft the largest water conservation-and-transfer agreement in U.S. history 15 years ago and more recently helped launch the largest seawater desalination plant in the country.

But these days we are taking a particularly aggressive approach across the agency to identify cutting-edge technologies that will help us continue to manage the region’s diverse water supplies and improve long-term stewardship of the region’s most precious natural resource. We have created an internal Innovation Program to promote creative problem-solving by staff, and we have started more broadly publicizing our interest in bright ideas from entrepreneurs and others who can help us stay ahead of water management issues.

If you have a product or concept that you would like to tell us about, go to sdcwa.org/innovation-program and submit the online form. That will help us identify the appropriate team member to evaluate your idea and provide feedback. Our goal is to respond within seven business days and let you know whether we have additional questions; if your product or idea may be a good fit for another agency; or if it is not feasible within the scope of our operations.

At the same time, we are promoting innovation on a national level. We’ve partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to co-sponsor a nationwide contest to advance corrosion and leak-detection technologies for large-diameter pipelines. Corrosion and leaks are a major problem across the country, resulting in billions of gallons of water wasted annually, along with disruptions in water service and costly repairs.

The competition runs through May 9 and includes a $75,000 purse provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the nation’s largest water provider and the operator of more than 20,000 miles of buried water pipelines. The Water Authority’s contribution includes helping to design the competition and providing judges to identify new approaches that can work effectively regardless of pipeline diameter or construction material.

There are numerous methods for finding leaks and flaws, and the Water Authority has pioneered some of them. However, none of them can efficiently assess the overall condition of pipelines while in operation. This contest could help us discover the next generation of condition assessment and water-saving tools, and it underscores one of our most important values – innovation. To learn more about the competition, go to www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/leakypipes.html.