Bureau of Reclamation launches prize competition seeking improved methods for monitoring pathogens to facilitate water reuse

This Challenge seeks to identify new or improved methods for monitoring pathogens, specifically viruses, to facilitate the indirect and direct reuse of municipal wastewater for potable uses as a means to alleviate water shortages and expand current water supplies.

In indirect potable reuse, treated wastewater enters an environmental buffer, such as a stream, reservoir or groundwater aquifer, intended for use as a drinking water source.  This reuse may be de facto (in effect) or engineered (intentional) with the latter involving advanced water treatment prior to the environmental buffer. In direct potable reuse, the environmental buffer is removed and treated wastewater undergoes advanced water treatment in an engineered system prior to reuse as a drinking water source. Solutions must improve on the current state of technology for either direct virus monitoring in wastewater or surrogate monitoring of reverse osmosis process integrity.

Areas of needed improvement include: sampling time, measurement accuracy and measurement sensitivity.

This is Stage 1 of a planned two-stage Challenge, with the second stage consisting of a prototype demonstration and a larger prize purse. The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) is the Seeker for this Challenge, and Xylem, Inc. is a co-sponsor of this Challenge contributing to all aspects of this Challenge including the prize purse. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Water Research Foundation are collaborating on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. The California State Water Resource Control Board is contributing to the design and judging of this Challenge.

Submission deadline: 

11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on August 8, 2018



Stage 1 - Theoretical Challenge

Participants will be asked to submit an idea, along with detailed descriptions, specifications, supporting data or literature, and requirements necessary to bring the idea closer to becoming a product. Stage 1 may award up to five prizes from a total prize award pool of $80,000.

If Stage 1 produces winning concepts and Reclamation determines a Stage 2 competition is beneficial, it will launch a subsequent Reduction-to-Practice Challenge.

Participants will be asked to present their technology and submit a working prototype that puts their idea into practice. 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.  Reclamation will invite and encourage Stage 1 winning solvers to participate, but will also open Stage 2 to the public for new submissions.

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 prize pool budget of $80,000, with half of that amount contributed by Xylem, Inc. The minimum full award amount is $15,000 for solutions that meet all of the stated solution criteria.  However, Reclamation can allocate higher individual award amounts up to $40,000, as it deems appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon evaluation by the 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 all Solution Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will be awarded by Reclamation in the event that more than five submissions meet all Solution Requirements. Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.


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.  


Xylem, Inc. (XYL) is a co-sponsor of this Challenge and contributed half of the prize purse for this Challenge. Xylem also contributed significant efforts to the Challenge design and will help judge submissions. Xylem is a leading global water technology company committed to developing innovative technology solutions to the world’s water challenges. The Company’s products and services move, treat, analyze, monitor and return water to the environment in public utility, industrial, residential and commercial building services, and agricultural settings. With its October 2016 acquisition of Sensus, Xylem added smart metering, network technologies and advanced data analytics for water, gas and electric utilities to its portfolio of solutions. The combined Company’s nearly 16,000 employees bring broad applications expertise with a strong focus on identifying comprehensive, sustainable solutions. Headquartered in Rye Brook, New York with 2015 revenue of $3.7 billion, Xylem does business in more than 150 countries through a number of market-leading product brands.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Water Research Foundation are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge, such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. The California State Water Resource Control Board is contributing to the design and judging of this Challenge.