California Throws Shade (Balls) To Help Solve Its Drought

Published August 13, 2015
Updated January 12, 2022

The remedy to California's drought-stricken lands or just the world's biggest ball pit? See for yourself how shade balls are making a huge impact.

From the pictures, it’s hard to tell whether California has dreamed up some creative ways to conserve water, or is just super intent on creating the world’s largest ball pit. (For the record, the drought-stricken state is doing a little of both.)

Shade Balls

This week, municipal workers dumped the final 20,000 shade balls into the Los Angeles Reservoir, transforming the body of water into a sea of floating black spheres. The latest installation brings the total number of shade balls in California to a staggering 96 million, a number that will hopefully offset the state’s catastrophic water shortage.

What Are Shade Balls

Up Close Reservoir

Source: Wired

Shade balls pretty much act like a jack-of-all-trades in the fight against California’s historic drought: they deflect UV rays, reduce evaporation, discourage birds and wildlife from interfering with the limited water supply, and prevent harmful algae from growing in the water.

In addition, the black balls also prevent the water’s chlorine and bromite from reacting with sunlight to become bromate—a chemical thought to cause cancer. Made of polythene, these miracle balls work for up to ten years and cost just 36 cents.

Shade Balls Close Up

Source: Guardian

Reservoir Ball Pit

Shade Balls In California

Source: Guardian

California’s shade balls will save an estimated 300 million gallons of water, and are an important part of the state’s $34.5 million water quality initiative.

The balls have proven to be a (relatively) cheap way for the state to conform to the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate that all reservoirs must be covered. Other initiatives, such as installing two floating covers or dividing the reservoir in half with a bisecting dam, which would have cost more than $300 million.

Still, others doubt the “shade balls'” long-term efficacy. Said Nathan Krekula, biologist and operations manager at Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratory, “I don’t believe that in the long run this provides a good strategy in protecting the water. I believe that this will increase evaporations due to a greater surface area as well as providing a great place for bacteria to have a nice environment to grow protected from UV light that kills it.”

Will “throwing shade” help amend California’s “exceptional drought status?” That answer will come over time. For now, we’re just happy to see that they’ve gotten the ball rolling.

California Municipal Workers

Source: Guardian

Balls in LA Reservoir

img src=”” alt=”Shade Balls Size” width=”800″ height=”727″ class=”size-full wp-image-54507″ />

Kiri Picone
Kiri Picone holds a B.A. in English and creative writing from Pepperdine University and has been writing for various digital publishers for more than 10 years.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
Cite This Article
Picone, Kiri. "California Throws Shade (Balls) To Help Solve Its Drought.", August 13, 2015, Accessed April 19, 2024.