Los Angeles County, like nearly all of California, is suffering from a drought. California is also a state known for its edgy environmental regulations, as it bans the commercial use of California-made WD-40, for instance. Los Angeles County follows in this tradition, in that it adopted an ordinance "banning single use plastic carryout bags at stores in the County unincorporated areas, while requiring they charge 10¢ for each paper carryout bag sold to a customer."
When a state-wide plastic bag ban was enacted, voters revolted, putting a delay on enactment until the they can decide on its fate in November of next year.
In the meantime, California is trying to mitigate the effects of the drought.
Water is scarce, and when it's not being used to feed marijuana plants or almonds, it eventually (hopefully) ends up in a reservoir for public use. But these public reservoirs are suffering from a multitude of problems other than a lack of available water.
NPR's Laura Wagner reports:
The EPA mandates that all reservoirs be covered, but because tarps can be expensive and metal coverings can take too long to install, shade balls — at least in Los Angeles — are becoming a preferred method.
That's because, according to a 2008 LA Times article Wagner cites:
when sunlight mixes with the bromide and chlorine in ... water, the carcinogen bromate forms.... Bromide is naturally present in groundwater and chlorine is used to kill bacteria, he said, but sunlight is the final ingredient in the potentially harmful mix.
Bromate is not the only problem. Evaporation and algae growth also cause trouble.
What is the city of Los Angeles to do? Build an expensive cover for the reservoir? Install floating covers? LA decided that would be too costly, and that's where the balls come in.
So, LA doubled down (and then some) on the shade balls and bought a ton more of them. The Los Angeles Reservoir now has 96 million of them, floating on top to keep the water cool, tamping down on evaporation, and impeding algae growth.
LA's mayor Eric Garcetti, rightly, is proud of his balls:
"While it's meeting the minimum standards, we want to go beyond that and have the healthiest water so we've been spreading these balls everywhere,"
NPR's Laura Wagner writes:
According to a Bloomberg article, the balls are coated in chemicals to block UV light, are not degradable and are designed to last up to 25 years.
LA Department of Water and Power GM Marcie Edwards said the balls are "a blend of how engineering really meets common sense," and that in using them, "We saved a lot of money; we did all the right things."
There's just one thing.
The balls, which cost a fraction of the alternatives, are made of (gasp) plastic. Yes, plastic. Though California might be wrong on the greatness of the plastic bag, it's nice to see some in the state admit that petroleum did them a solid.
I suppose that Mr. McGuire fellow was on to something when he gave the sage one-word bit of advice to Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate regarding his future.
You have to hand it to the plastics lobby, their slogan works: "Plastics make it possible." Especially if it involves living in California.