Environment

96 million "shade balls" released into reservoir to combat crippling drought

City officials releasing 20,000 shade balls into the LA Reservoir
City officials releasing 20,000 shade balls into the LA Reservoir
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City officials releasing 20,000 shade balls into the LA Reservoir
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City officials releasing 20,000 shade balls into the LA Reservoir
In all, 96 million shade balls were required to cover the LA Reservoir
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In all, 96 million shade balls were required to cover the LA Reservoir

A new initiative by theLos Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has taken asurprisingly low-tech approach to water conservation, by covering theLA Reservoir in 96 million black "shade balls." It's anattempt to combat water loss through evaporation, and to heighten waterquality.

California's watershortages are now believed to be so severe that the state would nowrequire 20 inches (51 cm) of rainfall – that's the equivalent of an entireyear's precipitation – to remedy the crippling rain debt.

In this context, the LAreservoir has become an even more vital resource, spanning animpressive 175 acres (71 hectares), and holding roughly 3.3 billion US gallons (12.5 billion liters) ofwater – enough to support the entire city of Los Angeles for up tothree weeks.

Each shade balls costs36 cents, with the entire project amounting to US$34.5 million. Whilstthis may sound like a lot of money to turn LA's largest reservoirinto a massive watery ball pit, other water-saving alternatives wouldhave proven far more costly to implement.

In all, 96 million shade balls were required to cover the LA Reservoir
In all, 96 million shade balls were required to cover the LA Reservoir

Another option that hadbeen under consideration would have seen the reservoir separated intotwo distinct basins with the use of a bisecting dam, and protectedwith a floating cover, at the much greater cost of $300 million.

The unusual strategyrepresents a significant cost savings of around $250 million, andcould prevent the loss of up to 300 million US gallons (1.14 billion liters) of water toevaporation. Simultaneously the shade balls will increasing waterpurity by preventing contamination via wildlife and dust, as well asreducing sunlight-triggered chemical reactions.

It is estimated thatthe sheer quantity of water saved under the initiative will besufficient to provide drinking water to around 8,100 LA residentsfor an entire year. Scroll down for a video showing the release of 20,000 shade balls into the LA Reservoir.

Source: LADWP

Mayor Garcetti Completes Shade Ball Cover of LA Reservoir

20 comments
DangerMouse
Let me guess, those balls are made of plastics (made in China), so they stay above the water line - surely with plasticizer and maybe even other stuff you don't want to drink/eat which will surely dissolve into the water over time. So they are trading a future with less water for a future with more or less poisonous water...
minivini
Simple question. Doesn't the black color of the balls encourage heating, which would lead to increased evaporation rates and a potential increase in algae growth?
Grunchy
Compared to white ping pong balls? I hope these have good UV resistance.
MartinWright
I thought the same thing surly mirror balls would be more effective
GavinKennedy
Not sure here but why not lily pads growing in the reservoir. They could provide shade naturally and produce other benefits while shading the pool without toxic plastic intervention and cost. Nature usually has the best solutions. I guess no one will make money on this so .....nevermind.
socalboomer
They are made in Glendora (suburb of Los Angeles) and are a food-safe plastic. What that exactly means? I dunno - but shouldn't be any worse than the crap that ends up in there from birds, wildlife, pollution, whatever. . . the water gets treated before it goes into supply. Supposedly the black color doesn't hurt because the plastic doesn't conduct heat that much and since they're (mostly) hollow they act as an insulator. (there is a small amount of water in them to keep them from blowing away, evidently.)
Kaiser Derden
50 million dollars to save enough water for 8,000 people for a year ... thats $6,250 per person ... couldn't they just buy water from Arizona cheaper ? how about not releasing 50% of the water to save a baitfish ? maybe only release 45% ... would save enough water for millions of people for a year ...
zevulon
what could possibly go wrong?
PaleDale
Black is better for UV stabilization in plastics so they will last longer. Either way I'd hate to be the person that has to clean this up when the time comes.
DavidFMayerPhD
The number of balls needed to cover a reservoir is preposterous. These balls will deteriorate from the sunlight and violent wave action during storms. Their pieces will clog the aquifers and end up polluting the environment. This is another obviously very bad idea.