AquaLastic is a technology that repairs cracked canals and conveyance structures with a elastomeric product that is applied directly to the concrete and, crucially, can expand and contract during winter freezes. The product has been used widely in the western United States on facilities owned by irrigation districts and government entities for more than 20 years with 100 percent success.
In this interview, Walter Winder, the exclusive sales representative at Hydro Consulting, speaks with Irrigation Leader Managing Editor Joshua Dill about the advantages of AquaLastic and how it can help irrigation districts with their infrastructure challenges.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you got into your current position.
Walter Winder: I was born and raised in Fallon, Nevada, which takes in the Newlands Reclamation Project. I went to work for Truckee-Carson Irrigation District right out of college in 1979 as a laborer and stayed with the irrigation district for just over 36 years, working as a heavy equipment operator, carpenter, weed control supervisor, truck driver, lead carpenter, operations and maintenance foreman, and deputy manager. After that, I chose to go back to my family farm and my cattle.
A little before that, I had been approached by Tom Matheson from Hydro Consulting, who asked if I’d be interested in getting involved with Hydro Consulting and with AquaLastic. I gave it a lot of thought and finally decided that if there were something I could do to help out other people who were in the same position that I had been in at various times with the irrigation district, it was worth it. Water and irrigation are a passion for me. I enjoy being involved in the irrigation business, and I like the people that you’re able to work with in it. There are a lot of problems to deal with and solve, and I guess I’ve become fairly good at figuring them out and solving them.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about Hydro Consulting and AquaLastic.
Walter Winder: Twenty years ago, Tom Matheson saw a need that irrigation districts had and set about developing a product to help them. He founded Hydro Consulting in 1996 and developed the AquaLastic elastomeric canal crack and joint sealant. AquaLastic has been successfully used on more than 22 million feet of crack and joint repair and has been chosen for Bureau of Reclamation Water Saver programs, projects, and studies for the past 18 years. It’s been used extensively in the Northwest. I got involved to try to open up some new areas in the Southwest. We’re looking to broaden our horizons.
Joshua Dill: What is AquaLastic and how does it function?
Walter Winder: AquaLastic is a product that deals with cracking in concrete, particularly in water conveyance structures like channels and reservoirs. In areas with big temperature variations, the freeze-thaw cycle is a major problem for structures like these. Water works its way into their substructures, and when winter comes, the water freezes and expands and cracks the channels. That process reoccurs every year and makes the problem worse. It’s a complicated problem and an annually costly one.
AquaLastic is an elastomeric product that has been formulated specifically for irrigation canal repair and is applied hot and under pressure to the cracks in these concrete structures. It adheres to the concrete and seals the cracks, and as the name suggests, it has enough elasticity to absorb the expansion and contraction that takes place during the freeze-thaw cycle. That keeps the water from getting out of the channel and going into the substructure of the lining.
Joshua Dill: What are the methods that canal owners might otherwise use to address that problem, and what are the advantages of AquaLastic over those alternatives?
Walter Winder: While I was still working at the district, I ended up with a recommendation for operation and maintenance (RO&M) project from the Bureau of Reclamation to seal cracks on a large diversion canal. There are lots of things on the market that you can use to try to repair these cracks, and we had tried many of them. Over the past 50 years, districts have used tar, coal tar, various types of caulking, and gunite cement products to repair cracks and joints. All have failed to pass the test of time. Coal tar, caulking, and roofing tar are quickly degraded by the water and the weather. Concrete products are rigid and fail quickly.
Most of these methods fail in 1–3 seasons, while AquaLastic has a 23-year history of 100 percent success. That reduces a district’s cost per season. The elasticity of AquaLastic means that if an AquaLastic-sealed canal does undergo some stress during the freeze-thaw cycle, any movement will take place in the areas that have already been sealed. That is a great benefit. The oldest of our AquaLastic applications has lasted for more than 23 years so far, with no end in sight.
Joshua Dill: Who are your customers and where are they located?
Walter Winder: The majority of our customers are irrigation districts, ranging from northern Washington State to southern Texas. We have been consistently expanding our territory.
Joshua Dill: Who applies your product? Do you have dedicated application personnel?
Walter Winder: There are two ways of applying the material. The main method is high-pressure AquaLastic, which is applied by Hydro Consulting-certified applicators. No matter how good a material is, if it is not applied properly, it can fail. We are strict about how the applications are done.
We also have a low-pressure system, which is used in low-volume applications. People can actually buy that system and apply the material themselves after they have been certified by a Hydro Consulting trainer. To find out more, readers can call Hydro Consulting at the number listed at the end of this article.
Joshua Dill: How can AquaLastic help agencies that need to repair or replace infrastructure?
Walter Winder: When I was with Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, I often felt that our infrastructure was particularly aged. The Newlands Project was one of the first Reclamation projects instituted. With that said, now that I’ve traveled around the country quite a bit, I find that I was not alone in that predicament. Water conveyance infrastructure all over the country is in need. AquaLastic can help maintain and repair that infrastructure. Beyond that, it is also a good product for increasing efficiency and cutting down on loss.
We did a project here about 3 years ago repairing a big check structure that had gotten cracked in a major earthquake and had remained cracked for years. The irrigation district excavated it for us, and with the approval of Reclamation, we went in and did a rather extensive treatment with AquaLastic, installed some lining, and then used AquaLastic over the top of that. We were able to bring some new life to that structure. There are a lot of cases like that—we have been able to extend the life expectancy of big flumes and other structures that would have cost millions of dollars to replace. Some of our applications have been out for more than 20 years and are still functioning perfectly.
Joshua Dill: So your product is affordable compared to alternative methods?
Walter Winder: When you look at the alternative methods, it’s extremely affordable. Demolishing and rebuilding a structure requires a major engineering effort andbig expenses. If you have a concrete-lined channel that’s starting to degrade and crack, our product can allow you to get several more years of life out of it while you work on a long-term plan to replace or rehabilitate it.
Joshua Dill: How has your experience working for an irrigation district informed the work you do at AquaLastic?
Walter Winder: As I mentioned, while at the district I dealt with a RO&M project to seal cracks in a diversion canal. To repair the canal, it needed to be left dewatered for an extended period of time. I contacted Hydro Consulting, and they came out, made an assessment, and had one of their certified applicators make the initial treatment of AquaLastic. That was in 2010 or 2011. To this date, the structure is still functioning perfectly. So I myself had a problem, and AquaLastic was the solution. The reality is that every district and municipality that deals with water conveyances has concrete. If you have concrete, you have cracked concrete. If you have cracked concrete, AquaLastic can help.
Joshua Dill: What is your vision for AquaLastic?
Walter Winder: I think AquaLastic has a lot of potential, not only from the maintenance perspective but from the efficiency and conservation perspectives as well. I’d like to see us grow the product and help people in this industry solve their problems.