Los Angeles Has Covered its Water With 96 Million Shade Balls to Stop Evaporation During the Drought

Los Angeles has come up with a clever way to protect its dwindling water supply: shade balls.

The city has dispersed 96 million of them over the past few months as it struggles to preserve water amidst an ongoing state-wide drought. The opaque spheres are poured into reservoirs, forming a blanket that shields the water from sunlight. Slowing down evaporation this way is estimated to have saved 300 million gallons of water already and is around a quarter of a billion dollars cheaper than any other preservation method (36 cents a piece).

55ca4d081700006e0056737aHere’s how they look in action:

The shade balls simultaneously prevent algae growth and toxic chemical reactions from taking place and have a lifespan of up to 25 years. They’re filled with water as a ballast, which is drinkable should they happen to leak – though the water conservation behind that strategy is questionable.


“In the midst of California’s historic drought, it takes bold ingenuity to maximize my goals for water conservation,” said Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. “This effort by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is emblematic of the kind of creative thinking we need to meet those challenges.”


Japan, meanwhile, is one step ahead when it comes to putting lids on water for environmental purposes. Kyocera, a company whose name you last associated with your first flip phone in high school, is currently building massive floating solar power plants to cover the country’s reservoirs.


Photos: Gene Blevins / Zuma / Corbis