California dumped 96 million balls into a reservoir and saved 300 million gallons of water a year

The state of California takes the issues of conservation and protecting the environment very seriously, and they’re almost always at the forefront of ideas that help better the planet and mitigate the worst damage that humans do to Mother Nature.

But when the idea was floated a back in 2015 that millions of so-called “shade balls” be dumped into a massive water reservoir, many people raised their eyebrows and wondered what the state was up to.

Mother Nature Network explains that there was indeed a method to the madness:

“Roughly 96 million plastic balls now reside in the 175-acre reservoir, the culmination of a $34.5 million initiative to protect the water supply.

“The balls are intended to prevent sunlight-triggered chemical reactions that encourage algae — creating cleaner water. The bobbing balls also protect the water from wildlife. But the key benefit is that the floating balls will prevent evaporation. Los Angeles officials estimate the balls will save about 300 million gallons of water each year.”

And while the shade balls do indeed help save water, it turns out they also have other uses, and one of those turns out to be reducing carcinogens in water, according to Science Alert:

“Yet despite their reputation for saving water, these balls were not put here just to reduce evaporation. The problem actually started with bromide, a natural substance found in salt water.

“Bromide on its own is harmless to humans, but if some of this salty water creeps into the reservoir and undergoes ozone treatment with the rest of LA’s drinking water, it can form the compound bromate. And bromate is a carcinogen.

“The LA Department of Water and Power thought they were keeping tabs on these bromate levels, but for some reason, the carcinogen kept spiking when the water entered the reservoir. It turns out, when bromide and chlorine interact with sunlight, the reaction produces even more bromate than when the former interacts with ozone.”

That’s not the only benefit of the small spheres. They also help prevent the growth of algae. That means the water treatment facility can use less chlorine to counteract the algae.

If that’s not enough to justify the cost of the balls, there’s also the fact that they keep the water below them much cooler, and that in turn reduces evaporation by 80 to 90 percent.

Shade balls aren’t exactly a new idea. They’ve been used since 2008:

“They’re the brainchild of Dr. Brian White, a now-retired biologist with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who said he got the idea when he learned about the application of ‘bird balls’ that were placed in ponds along airfield runways to keep birds from congregating too close to planes.”

A simple solution to a major problem. Proof that when we try, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.


Here’s more on the shade ball project:


Featured Image Via YouTube Screenshot


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Andrew Bradford

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