Water infrastructure investment represents $250 million in savings, and prevents the annual loss of more than 300 million gallons of water
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 largest in-basin facility of its kind owned and managed by LADWP. 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.
A cost-effective investment that brings the L.A. Reservoir into compliance with new federal water quality mandates, the shade balls are expected to save $250 million when compared to other comparable tools considered to meet that goal. Those alternatives included splitting the reservoir into two with a bisecting dam; and installing two floating covers that would have cost more than $300 million. 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. At Monday’s event, Mayor Garcetti was joined by Councilmember Mitchell Englander, LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards and Marty Adams, LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager of the Water System.
“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. A second, $100 million ultraviolet treatment facility is due to break ground next — allowing LADWP to meet regulatory timelines, save more than $250 million in capital improvement costs and further reduce water losses.
“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 Councilmember 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.”
Said Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, chair of the LA City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee: “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.”
Marcie Edwards, LADWP General Manager said, “Shade balls are a great example of how engineering meets common sense. Our water system has significantly changed since William Mulholland built it more than 100 years ago. As we make updates, we are mindful to be wise and practical with our investments. Shade balls are an affordable and effective way to comply with regulations, and helps us continue to deliver the best drinking water to our customers.”
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.