Here in the US, climate change and recent weather patterns have filled the news and US citizens as well as the world at large are quite familiar with the challenges California has faced in regards to its public water supply. The last four years have beenespecially cruel in this regard, encapsulating the worst droughts since1895. This has been an arid situationcontributed to by record high temperature ranges and parallel record low rainand humidity levels. Reservoir levelsare reaching bottom and California is faced with the unavoidable task of takingradical initiatives to conserve water.
One such tactic has lent an odd and some might say even eerieappearance to the Ivanhoe Reservoir. Over the past 7 years this 96-acre waterreserve has taken a strange black surface, but underneath its odd appearance isa progressive water conservation solution. The black surface on the water isnot a condition of the water itself or of any chemical adulteration but insteadfrom 400,00 high density polyethylene balls. 96 million more of these black water accessories have recently beenplaced in the Los Angeles Reservoir as well. So what are these strange additions?
These black polyethylene spheres are called ‘shade balls’ andserve a variety of purposes. They arechemically coated to block UV rays from evaporating the precious and limitedwater supplies. The technology isreportedly expected to conserve an estimate of 300 million gallons of water peryear in the Los Angeles Reservoir alone. By protecting these reservoirs from UV radiation also prevents thebuildup of algae and bromate which is a carcinogen known to grow in thepresence of chlorine and bromide under sunlight exposure.
In an interviewwith KABC, Mayor Eric Garcetti states:
“By reducing evaporation, these shade balls will conserve 300million gallons of water each year. Instead of just evaporating into the sky,that’s 300 million gallons to fight this drought.”
Not only is this technological adaptation conserving the watersupply itself, but is also saving the city more than $250 millionannually. The other option which thewater-depleted state considered was splitting the reservoir itself which wouldhave run a hefty $300 million, whereas the ‘shade balls’ were a much lowerimpact hit on the state budget at $34.5 million.
Two companies were responsible for manufacturing the massivesupply of shade balls and those were XavierC from Glendora, CA and Artisan Screen Process of Azuza, CA. The material of which the balls are formed,high-density polyethylene, is a commonly used material in commercialapplications such as body product containers milk jugs and more and isgenerally accepted as a safe material as it is not known to release anychemicals into water or food.
In a statement issued on Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti said:
“In the midst of California’s historic drought, it takes bold ingenuityto maximize my gals for water conservation. This effort by LADWP is emblematicof the kind of creative thinking we need to meet those challenges.”
While it is to be celebrated thatCalifornia is seeking and finding solutions to a potentially devastatingproblem with the water supply, one must wonder the repercussions of producingsuch massive quantities of inorganic chemical coated balls. What will be the fate of these creationsafter they have served their purpose in protecting California’s waterreservoirs? May the future flourish withbio-technologies and solutions that benefit all parties involved from beginningto end.