Environment Resource Management

Shade Balls in Water Conservation

Water is essential for all living organisms. About 3 parts of the earth are filled with water. But 97% of the earth’s water are saline and less than 1% is available as fresh water for human usage. This necessitates the need for water conservation to use that 1% efficiently.
Nowadays, water is becoming scarce due to population explosion, usage in industry and agriculture activities, insufficient rainfall and due to evaporation. The steps towards water conservation is minimal as there is no pricing for usage of water.
Water conservation aims at reducing the wastage of water. It also includes recycling wastewater for various purposes. Novel technology has been adopted for preventing the loss of water by evaporation, in Los Angeles, United States of America in which “shade balls” are used.  These shade balls, cover the water bodies preventing evaporation.
Deployment of Shade Balls at Los Angeles Reservoir ; Image credit staticflickr.com
Shade balls  are plastic balls which are 4 inches in diameter and made from High density Polyethylene. The balls are also coated with chemicals like black carbon to block incoming Ultra Violet light from sunlight. The balls are painted black to deflect the UV rays. Each ball costs 36 cents, equivalent to Rs.23/- in Indian currency. These balls last up to 25 years.
shade balls water conservation
Image credit : wikimedia
Why shade balls are used?
The shade balls help in maintaining the quality of the water. The water needs to be kept in the shade as it contains bromide and chlorine ions which react in sunlight to form bromide which is a carcinogen. The balls coated with black carbon  prevent this reaction. Besides arresting evaporation it also prevents the growth of algae. The balls are designed to float on water to act as a protective barrier protecting it from dust, rain, chemicals, and also as bird balls to keep it away. Upon comparing others, it is the cheapest method of water conservation.
Image credit: vimeocdn

There are also fear of leaching of plastics from balls making micro-plastic contamination, and also few reports says that black balls retains heat and also provide more surface area for bacteria to breed over it. As India is facing a serious water shortage in summer every year mainly due to evaporation of surface water from tanks, ponds, etc., and due to groundwater depletion.  We can learn from this simple cost effective technology of water conservation and consider using that in India with necessary improvements.

– G.sukumar; Horticulture student, sugumargv@gmail.com

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