By: Craig Gyselinck, Environmental Assistant Manager, QCBID

Can the chemical and physical characteristics of concrete surfaces prevent weed, algae, and moss growth in irrigation canals? The Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District (QCBID) has partnered with the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) Research and Development Office to answer this question.

The partners applied for a Reclamation-wide competitive, merit-based, applied research and development grant and were awarded $83,520. Additionally, they secured $160,000 in-kind support from supporting partners. The project has widespread support from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho water user associations, irrigation districts, and from Reclamation.

Each year QCBID is faced with prolific plant management challenges in their canals, laterals, drains, and wasteways. Aquatic weeds and algae rapidly grow in project waterways and reduce their carrying capacity, which decreases the ability to deliver water to farms. Plants block the flow of water in canals and limit water’s ability to flow to farms. Water user turnouts, pumps, siphon tubes, and sprinkler systems all become clogged. The Columbia Basin Project has approximately 2,300 miles of canals and laterals and 4,000 miles of drains and wasteways.

Aquatic herbicides are presently used to control weeds, algae, and mosses in irrigation canals.  Each year QCBID spends approximately $1.3 million dollars on weed control. This costs landowners over $5 for every irrigable acre on their assessments – this is not sustainable.

A cost-effective concrete-composite that is resistant to weed, algae, and moss growth would improve the resiliency of water delivery systems and be used to maintain, modernize, and extend the life of ageing infrastructure. Such benefits are numerous and include: increased irrigation system reliability and efficiency, protection against invasive species, reduced pesticide use, improved water quality, improved water and energy conservation, and reduced operation and maintenance costs.

After a concrete product is developed, field testing will occur within QCBID. Concrete panels will be poured and evaluated in existing irrigation canals. The project is expected to be complete by 2021.

Stay up to date with Project happenings every month.