The Bureau of Reclamation Uses Crowdsourcing to Identify Innovative “Snowpack Estimation” Solutions, Offering $500k Prize Purse

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Bureau of Reclamation today announced its crowdsourcing competition, the "Snowcast Showdown", which is being implemented by DrivenData, Ensemble, and HeroX. The Challenge seeks innovative methods of estimating snow water equivalent (SWE), tasking competitors to provide spatially-distributed estimates of SWE over the western US during the 2022 winter season. Participants are competing for a prize purse of $500,000.

SWE refers to the amount of liquid water contained in a snowpack. Seasonal mountain snowpack is a critical water resource throughout the Western US. During winter, snow accumulates in mountain headwaters. When temperatures rise in the spring and summer, snowpacks melt, serving as a freshwater source for major streams and rivers which feed Reclamation reservoirs. Therefore, knowing how much water is stored in winter snowmelt is essential to forecasting spring and summer water supplies.

The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesaler of water in the western US and the second largest producer of hydropower in the US. Reclamation delivers water to more than 31 million people per year and provides irrigation water to 1 out of 5 Western farmers, which includes 10 million acres of farmland that produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of fruit and nut crops.  Reclamation aims to be forward thinking as they invest in technology to support a variety of water management decisions, including managing reservoir storage levels, setting seasonal water allocations, and planning for extreme weather events. Improved technologies will also help to meet demands for increasing water supply during significant droughts.

"Our technology must advance to meet the particular challenges of climate change and extreme weather," said Greg Lipstein, Principal at DrivenData. "These kinds of Challenges channel the efforts of skilled experts around the world to push forward the tools available to our nation’s public agencies and water managers."

While there are multiple technologies to monitor snowpack, none adequately address all of the needs of Reclamation. Over the past several decades, ground-based instruments including SNOwpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) stations have been used to monitor snowpacks. While ground measures can provide accurate SWE estimates, they are spatially limited, especially at high elevation, and are challenging to maintain. Airborne methods to estimate SWE are highly accurate, however they are expensive and currently have limited spatial and temporal coverage. Satellite remote sensing methods are also emerging, but are not yet operational. Thus, new and improved methods are needed to accurately measure SWE and inform critical water management decisions.

The Prize: Prizes will be split across 2 challenge tracks. The Prediction Competition Track is a machine learning competition, where participants train models to estimate SWE at 1km resolution across 17 states in the Western US. $440,000 will be awarded in the Prediction Competition Track, with separate prizes for overall performance and performance across regional geographies. The Model Report Competition is a model analysis competition, which will award a $60,000 prize purse to the top 3 teams.

Eligibility to Compete and Win Prize(s):  The prize is open to anyone aged 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (some restrictions apply). Additional eligibility requirements or limits can be found in the challenge rules.

To accept the challenge, visit


DrivenData is a social enterprise dedicated to bringing the data tools and methods that are transforming industry to the world’s biggest challenges. As part of that work, DrivenData competition platform channels the skills and passion of data scientists, researchers, and other quantitative experts to build solutions for social good. These online machine learning challenges are designed to engage a large expert community, connect participants with real-world data problems, and highlight their best solutions.

See our past competitions and learn more at

Ensemble is an innovation consultancy delivering end-to-end incentive contests, custom prize challenges, and machine learning competitions. We are distinguished experts at prize challenge management with a deep knowledge of running open innovation programs under the America COMPETES Act. We help our customers co-create impactful solutions, collaborate with talented, niche innovators, and invent new technology.                                                     


HeroX is a platform and open marketplace for crowdsourcing innovation and human ingenuity, co-founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur, Christian Cotichini and XPRIZE Founder and Futurist, Peter Diamandis. HeroX offers a turnkey, easy-to-use platform that supports anyone, anywhere, to solve everyday business and world challenges using the power of the crowd. Uniquely positioned as the Social Network for Innovation, HeroX is the only place you can build, grow and curate your very own crowd.

Media Contact:
Alexandra Pony


SOURCE DrivenData; HeroX