Millions of 'Shade Balls' to Prevent Evaporation in Calif. Reservoirs

L.A. officials have come up with a surprisingly low-tech way to fight the region's water crisis: millions of floating plastic balls.

Los Angeles officials have come up with a surprisingly low-tech way to fight the region's water crisis: millions of floating plastic balls.

As part of a $34.5 million project, the city's Department of Water and Power has released nearly 100 million of so-called "shade balls" into three local reservoirs in recent months. The layer of balls protects water from algae formation, dust, rain and wildlife.

Perhaps more importantly, the black balls also help to prevent evaporation. According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the balls could conserve 300 million gallons of reservoir water each year - water that California desperately needs.

What If California Runs Out of Water?

On a chemical level, the balls prevent the production of bromate, a suspected carcinogen. Bromate forms when naturally occurring bromite reacts with added chlorine and sunlight.

Shade balls will likely become a permanent fixture atop reservoirs. This particular batch will be deployed for decade, after which time they will be removed, recycled and replaced.

"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," Los Angeles Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, chair of the city's Energy and Environment Committee, said in a news release.

This blog originally appeared on DSCOVRD.

A municipal district in California has been filling its reservoirs with thousands of black balls in an effort to reduce evaporation and deter birds.

The effects of global warming are frequently projected decades into the future, but two recent reports -- one from the

U.S. Global Change Research Program

and the other

from the U.N.

-- put into sharp focus visible consequences of our warming planet. An increase in temperature, extreme weather, loss of ice and rising sea level are just a few of changes we can measure right now. Let's take a look at some of the most concerning trends.

BLOG: War Of The Words: Climate Change Or Global Warming?

Glaciers are shrinking worldwide and permafrost is thawing in high-latitude and high-elevation areas, reports this year's Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

BLOG: Dire Outlook For Climate Impacts, New Report Says

Only a few extinctions are attributed to climate change, reports the IPCC, but climate change that occurred much more slowly, over millions of years, caused major ecosystem shifts and species extinctions. Land and sea animals are changing their geographic ranges and migratory patterns due to climate change.

NEWS: Climate Change: Why Haven't We Done More?

Sea level around the world has increased by about 8 inches since 1880, reports the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which projects a 1 to 4 foot rise by the end of the century.

PHOTOS: Craziest Environmental Ideas (That Could Work)

Excess CO2 is dissolving in the ocean and decreasing the pH of seawater. The ocean is about 30 percent more acidic than it was in pre-industrial times. More acidity in the oceans makes it harder for animals to form calcium carbonate shells and skeletons and erodes coral reefs.

11 Health Threats from Climate Change

The probability of a Sandy-like storm deluging New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast has nearly doubled compared to 1950, according to the American Meteorological Society. Even weaker storms will be more damaging now than they were 10 years ago because of rising sea levels. Superstorm Sandy cost the nation $65 billion, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, and 2012's Hurricane Isaac cost $2.3 billion.

The global sea level rises along with the temperature for two major reasons. For one, heat causes water to expand, which causes the existing water to take up more space and encroach on the coast. At the same time, ice at the poles and in glaciers melts and increases the amount of water in the oceans.

PHOTOS: Melting Glaciers

Across the United States, heavy downpours are on the rise, especially in the Northeast and Midwest. Increases in extreme precipitation are expected for all U.S. regions, reports the 2014 National Climate Assessment.

NEWS: Shrinking Greenland Glacier Smashes Speed Record

The most recent IPCC report states with "very high confidence" that current climate-related extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires are showing that countries around the world, at all development levels, are significantly unprepared. The American Meteorological Society estimates that approximately 35 percent of the extreme heat in the eastern United States between March and May 2012 resulted from human activities' effects on climate. The AMS warned that deadly heat waves will become four times more likely in the north-central and northeastern United States as the planet continues to warm.

NASA: Global Warming Goes On