L.A.’s Got Balls: Here’s One Answer to the Drought

ballsLos Angeles officials have decided manmade plastic can help their city’s water supply survive the effects of manmade global warming.

Ironic, no?

Whether it’s the best or the worst of life, it always rolls downhill, and so have 96 million plastic balls rolled into the Los Angeles Reservoir, creating what one supporter of the plan told the New York Times is “the world’s largest ball pit.”

The last 20,000 of the balls were rolled into the reservoir Aug. 10, completing the $34.5 million project.

L.A. officials are hoping this will help the city deal with a true water crisis. Four years of drought have dried their water supply nearly to the bone. City engineers promise the black, plastic shade balls will slow evaporation and algae growth by blocking sunlight and UV rays.

The balls should also block sunlight-triggered chemical reactions, keep birds and other wildlife out of the water, and protect the water from rain and wind-blown dust.

The L.A. Reservoir is not the only facility of its kind holding water for the people of Los Angeles, but it is the biggest. Its 3.3 billion gallons of water is enough to supply the city for three weeks.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on his Facebook page the balls now floating on top of the 175-acre reservoir could save 300 million gallons of water a year.

Garcetti called the 96 million balls a “cost-effective investment” that should also bring the L.A. Reservoir into compliance with new federal water-quality mandates.

The shade balls are expected to save the city $250 million when compared to other comparable tools considered to save the water of the Los Angeles Reservoir.

As simple as it seems, it is also a fresh idea. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the first utility company to use plastic balls for water-quality protection.

But rolling the balls into the L.A. Reservoir was not Garcetti’s first choice. City engineers did look at other options.

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.

However, it didn’t take a state-of-the-art computer system to show making plastic balls and floating them on the water, while almost childlike in its simplicity, was incredibly inexpensive.

City officials said that at $0.36 each the shade balls require no construction, parts, labor or maintenance aside from occasional rotation.

“Shade balls are a great example of how engineering meets common sense,” Marcie Edwards, the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said. “Shade balls are an affordable and effective way to comply with regulations, and helps us continue to deliver the best drinking water to our customers.”

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Comments (11)

  • Avatar

    Gator

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    [quote]…and protect the water from rain…[/quote]

    Protecting water from rain? Right. Who wants soggy water?

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    Moose

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    So now we need to protect the water from nature???
    The green virus really robs people from their brain.

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    Me

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    You would think they would use white balls then! What they just did was put a solar heat source in their water supply! 😀

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    squidly

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    It will be very interesting to see what “unintended consequences” arise from this.

    Further, if it is found that they need to remove these things, perhaps in a hurry, because of an “unintended consequence”, what level of effort will it take to then remove those balls?

    Finally, wasn’t there some sort of scare at one time about plastics and water bottles? .. Something about PFC’s or something? .. Isn’t this putting those very PFC’s into the water supply?

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    • Avatar

      Me

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      I think it was BPA, but it depends on the type of plactics.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        squidly

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        Yeah, whatever it was, seems to me that sitting black plastic balls in water 24/7, exposed to the elements may have some sort of an effect (if there is such a thing).

        Reply

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    mike Cross

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    I am surprised that they used black balls as they will absorb IR and really heat up in the californian sun as we know from dark painted cars etc This could reduce their effectiveness significantly. If I wasn’t such an old engineer I would work out the effect on water surface temperature and eveporation losses due to convective to air movements around the hot balls

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      amirlach

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      [quote] If I wasn’t such an old engineer I would work out the effect on water surface temperature and eveporation losses due to convective to air movements around the hot balls.[/quote]

      Nearly fell out of my chair… 😀

      Wait? You were not talking about “Caitlan”?

      Reply

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