LA Black Ball Strategy May Result In 'Bacterial Nightmare'


It turns out, those little black balls just won't work - all 96 million of them.

Latest news have been reported about LA's efforts to fight drought and save water by releasing millions of plastic black balls, or shade balls, into the LA Reservoir. As their name implies, the balls were intended to block sunlight from the water, thus preventing evaporation during the crippling California drought.

Now, experts are saying that not only was black a bad choice of color, but that it won't really save that much water and even cause contamination which will affect the water as well as wildlife and people consuming it.

The city spent $34.5 million on 96 million plastic black balls that were dumped into the LA Reservoir to keep the water from evaporating and save about 300 million gallons of water a year from just dissipating into thin air. The original plan was to put up an actual shade over the reservoir, but it would have cost LA more to put that up over the Van Norman Complex reservoir that stretches to 175 acres in the Sylmar area. So it didn't seem like a bad idea to spend just $34.5 million for balls that should do the same trick.

According to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, the shade balls inhibit the growth of microorganisms, thus reducing necessary water treatment, and saving the city $250 million over time.

"The effort by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Pwer (LADWP) is emblematic of the kind of creative thinking we need to meet [the drought's] challenges," Garcetti said.

After the black balls have been dropped into the LA Reservoir, experts are now pointing out two things - that the balls won't save enough water for the city and that they might even cause a bacterial nightmare.

Some experts say that instead of slowing down evaporation, the black color of the shade balls absorbs heat and actually speed it up. White would have been a better choice, the experts say.

Max Liboiron, a professor studying marine pollution at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, says that the black plastic balls will keep 300 million gallons of water from evaporating, but that is just short term, considering the effects they have on the environment.

Liboiron explained that climate shade balls strategy is just a technical fix, and more attention should be given to long-term solutions for problems like climate change, plastics being dumped into the ocean and other more complex and large scale problems.

The plastic balls in the LA Reservoir, for example, will fragment over time into microplastics, smaller and smaller but not decaying, until they are consumed as toxins by people and wildlife.

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