On Monday morning, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti released 20,000 “shade balls” into the LA Reservoir, marking the final phase of a $34.5 million project to conserve water in the county.
With the completion of the project, there are now 96 million dark, plastic balls floating in the 175-acre reservoir. On the Facebook page announcing the event, the Mayor responded to questions from users about the balls, explaining that they are BPA-free and manufactured by minority, women-owned facilities from LA County.
“In addition to saving water from evaporating,” Garcetti wrote, “[the balls] also reduce algae blooms so our water is cleaner. When we wanted to update the Reservoir, the original estimate was over $300 million but with these shade balls we ended up spending only $0.36 for each ball coming in at just $34.5 million to get the same result.”
According to a press release, the idea to use the balls came from Dr. Brian White, an LADWP biologist (since retired), after learning about the “bird balls” used in airfield ponds to deter birds from the area. The shade balls used in open-air LA reservoirs serve a number of uses: protecting the water from rain and dust, deterring birds and other wildlife, blocking sunlight and evaporation and reducing algae blooms.
California’s ongoing drought, now in its fourth year, has become so severe that Governor Jerry Brown has mandated state-wide water restrictions for the first time in California history. By deploying the shade balls, the LADWP expects to save $250 million in water conservation measures and prevent the annual evaporation of about 300 million gallons of water.
“In the midst of California’s historic drought, it takes bold ingenuity to maximize my goals for water conservation,” said Mayor 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 percent, and today we complete an infrastructure investment that saves our ratepayers millions and protects a vital source of drinking water for years to come.”
In addition to costing less than 40 cents to build, the shade balls require no construction, parts, labor or maintenance apart from the occasional rotation.
On Facebook, Jahobi Po asked the Mayor if the balls are effective against all water-type Pokemon. Garcetti responded, “We don’t know about Blastoise but we’d love to see Squirtle.”