Scientists take stock of drought experiment with plastic balls

Three years ago, the authorities in drought-stricken Los Angeles gave the go-ahead for extraordinary measures to conserve moisture in reservoirs. For this purpose, 96 million light plastic balls were poured into them, which covered the mirror of the reservoir with a protective layer. The measure was immediately recognized as controversial, but it turned out to be the cheapest of all the proposed projects, only $ 34.5 million, against 200-300 million in other cases. Now is the time to take stock.

The mass of balls had three purposes: to create a shade, not allowing the water to heat up, to serve as a barrier for evaporating moisture, and, on the other hand, to prevent any debris from entering the water. This means that no one planned to leave the balls in the reservoir for a long time, and in 2017, after the end of a severe drought, they were removed.

It is estimated that during this time the reservoir with balls saved 1.7 million cubic meters from evaporation. moisture. However, another fact attracts attention: 2, 9 million cubic meters were spent on the production of plastic for these balls. water. The lack of a win is obvious. It was necessary to leave the balls in the water for at least three years, and with continuous drought, in order to simply compensate for the water costs for their creation due to possible savings. Except as a failure, it is difficult to call this project.

According to Dr. Kave Madani of Imperial College London, we are “great at fast engineering solutions, but we always manage to ignore their long-term consequences”. Solving one serious problem with radical methods, creating another - the very idea of ​​protecting a reservoir with the help of balls is not bad, but no one undertook to calculate all the details. We chose the simplest and cheapest project, and now all of humanity can get acquainted with its depressing results. And draw the necessary conclusions.