Shade balls help water conservation efforts in California

August 17, 2015 0 By Amanda Giasson

Millions of small black balls have been released into Los Angeles Reservoir to help save water.

Water conservation in California continues to become more important as it seems that there is no end in sight for the state’s devastating drought, which has reached its fourth year. Last week, in L.A., the final step in a $34.5 million water quality project, which involved the release of millions of small black plastic balls, called “shade balls”, in the Los Angeles Reservoir, was deployed.

The goal of the project is to prevent water from evaporating and algae from growing in the reservoir.

In total, 96 million of these shade balls have been released into the water and cover the 175-acre surface of the reservoir. The L.A. Reservoir is the Department of Water and Power’s biggest in-base facility, and holds over 3.3 billion gallons of water. The balls are expected to save over 300 million gallons of water from evaporating per year.

The L.A. Reservoir isn’t the only one being covered. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) mandates the covering of all reservoirs. While there is more than one way to cover a reservoir, such as by using tarps or metal coverings, these methods can take a long time to install and can be more costly than the shade ball method, which is becoming the preferred choice in L.A.

There is much more to these water conservation balls than meets the eye.

Although at first glance the shade balls may look like the plastic toy balls used in children’s ball pits, these 4-inch diameter black balls are far more impressive. According to a news article from Bloomberg, the balls are hollow, polyethylene orbs created by XavierC, Artisan Screen Process, and Orange Products. The balls have been coated with a chemical that blocks UV light and have been hermetically sealed with water inside them. The water acts as a ballast to prevent the spheres from blowing out of the reservoir when it’s windy.

The chemical used on the shade balls to block UVs also makes them non degradable and can help them last up to 25 years.

Each ball costs 36 cents, which makes it a far less expensive solution compared to alternatives like splitting the reservoir into two sections with a dam and installing floating covers; a project that would cost over $300 million.

While these shade balls have already been used on more than one reservoir in Los Angeles, the city plans to continue deploying them in its water conservation efforts.

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