‘Shade Balls’ Now Cover Los Angeles Reservoir

'Shade Balls' Now Cover Los Angeles Reservoir
Water infrastructure investment represents $250 million in savings, and prevents the annual loss of more than 300 million gallons of water.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – August 12, 2015 – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released 20,000 “shade balls” onto the surface of the Los Angeles Reservoir Monday, marking completion of a $34.5 million initiative to protect the city’s water quality.

LADWP is the first utility company to use this technology for water quality protection. Today’s deployment marked the final phase of an effort that involves the deployment of 96 million shade balls to the 175-acre reservoir.

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.

The city says the cost-effective investment now brings the L.A. Reservoir into compliance with new federal water quality mandates and the shade balls are expected to save $250 million when compared to other comparable tools considered to meet that goal. In addition, the shade balls will also prevent the annual loss to evaporation of about 300 million gallons of water.

Holding a total of 3.3 billion gallons, enough to supply the entire city of Los Angeles for up to three weeks, the L.A. Reservoir is located in LADWP’s Van Norman Complex in Sylmar.

“In the midst of California’s historic drought, it takes bold ingenuity to maximize my goals for water conservation,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “This effort by LADWP is emblematic of the kind of the creative thinking we need to meet those challenges. Together, we’ve led the charge to cut our city’s water usage by 13%, and today we complete an infrastructure investment that saves our ratepayers millions and protects a vital source of drinking water for years to come.”

At $0.36 each, the shade balls require no construction, parts, labor or maintenance aside from occasional rotation.

“As the drought continues, it has never been more important to focus on innovative ways to maintain the highest quality drinking water for our 4 million residents, said council member Mitchell Englander. “In addition to cutting back on the need to chemically treat our water to prevent natural occurrences like algae, these shade balls are a cost-effective way to reduce evaporation each year by nearly 300 million gallons, enough to provide drinking water for 8,100 people for a full year.”

“LADWP’s innovative use of shade balls will protect our water supply and ensure that residents have access to clean, safe, and ready-to-drink water. As we work to ensure a more sustainable and resilient future for L.A., I look forward to more creative, trailblazing and cost-effective solutions.” said council member Felipe Fuentes, chair of the LA City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee

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.


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