California drought: fight with “Shade Balls” for water reservoirs

By   August 13, 2015

california drought shade ballsInnovative solution using “shade balls” has been found and implemented for California drought and water crisis in order to save water for people.

California suffers from serious water scarcity in the last few years because of long-term drought caused by the climate change. Officials concerned with preserving a reservoir in Los Angeles hatched a plan: They would combat four years of drought with 96 million plastic balls.

According to Eric Garcetti (the Mayor of Los Angeles) “LA just completed a project at Los Angeles Reservoir to save 300 million gallons of water by deploying shade balls on its surface. These shade balls are saving our city over $250 million while keeping our water clean & safe.” Mayor Eric Garcetti released 20,000 “shade balls” onto the surface of the Los Angeles Reservoir, to protect the city’s water quality.

The small, black plastic balls protect water quality by preventing sunlight-triggered chemical reactions, deterring birds and other wildlife, and protecting water from rain and wind-blown dust. At $0.36 each, the shade balls require no construction, parts, labor or maintenance aside from occasional rotation.

A cost-effective investment that brings the L.A. Reservoir into compliance with new federal water quality mandates, the shade balls are expected to save $250 million when compared to other comparable tools considered to meet that goal. Those alternatives included splitting the reservoir into two with a bisecting dam; and installing two floating covers that would have cost more than $300 million. In addition, the shade balls will also prevent the annual loss to evaporation of about 300 million gallons of water.

Dr. Brian White, a now-retired LADWP biologist, was the first person to think of using shade balls for water quality. The idea came to him when he learned about the application of “bird balls” in ponds along airfield runways. The innovative, in-house solution has been used in LADWP’s open-air reservoirs since 2008 to block sunlight, prevent chemical reactions and curtail algae blooms. Currently in place at Upper Stone, Elysian and Ivanhoe reservoirs, the shade balls come with the added benefit of reducing evaporation off the reservoir surfaces by 85 to 90 percent.

Probably and hopefully water infrastructure investment and water saving project contribute to handle California drought and water scarcity. On the other hand we must continue to slow down climate change and decrease rapidly the greenhouse gas emittions in order to save water and maintain a sustainable water management system for people.

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