This unconventional remediation equipment is protecting L.A.’s drinking water

In an effort to combat California’s worst-ever drought and reduce water evaporation in the Los Angeles Reservoir, the city has dumped millions of “shade balls” into the water.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spearheaded the project, which involved releasing 96 million of the shade balls into the Van Norman Complex reservoir in Sylmar.

L.A. is actually the first city in the U.S. to use this technology. The four-inch balls are weighted down with water inside them, and they help to keep the sunlight off the water’s surface.

The black plastic shade balls are locally sourced, made in L.A. for 36 cents each. In addition to blocking the sun’s rays, they will also protect against dust, rain, birds, wildlife, and even chemical reactions

On Monday, August 10, the city completed the final phase of the $34.5 million water quality protection project by releasing 20,000 more of the shade balls into the reservoir.

This type of remediation equipment is designed to protect the country’s drinking water resources. Freshwater, as opposed to undrinkable saltwater, only makes up about 3% of the Earth’s water resources, and much of that is found below ground.

LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards explained that the project actually saved “a lot of money.”

“This is a blend of how engineering really meets common sense,” Edwards told local news affiliate ABC 7.

Mayor Eric Garcetti explained the process a bit more. “By reducing evaporation, these shade balls will conserve 300 million gallons of water each year, instead of just evaporating into the sky,” he said. “That’s 300 million gallons to fight this drought.”

After the Environmental Protection Agency mandated the shade balls for all reservoirs in L.A., experts estimated that the cost would be around $300 million. Yet because they cost under $35 million, the savings actually helped the city both environmentally and financially.