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That Takes a Lot of Balls

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A truckload of 20,000 black plastic balls were released into the Los Angeles reservoir this week. That’s the last shipment of a total of 96 million balls now floating on the water. It’s a $34.5 million project designed to protect the city’s precious water supply.

The black, plastic shade balls — costing 36 cents each — protect the water in the 175-acre reservoir against dust and rain, birds and wildlife, and chemical reactions caused by the sun. It is also expected to keep about 300 million gallons of water from evaporating each year.

L.A. has been doing this for years in smaller reservoirs, but they've never had this many balls before. Let’s hope it works, as California is in the midst of an epic drought. If it doesn’t, they’ll have no water and the world’s largest ball pit to play in. -via Time

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That depends on exactly what kind of plastic they use, and I haven't seen a version of the story that says that. There are various plastics used in ultrapure water systems, which can have some rather strict limits on stuff that leaches into the water.
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The primary use for balls like this at most locations is to block light, because the light can induce reactions with chlorine and bromine added to treated water. They've been found to reduce evaporation even when black.
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Okay, since black absorbs heat from sunlight, shouldn't the balls be white?
Sure, James Cameron used black ones to simulate the dark depths of the ocean in the giant filming tank he used for The Abyss, but...
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