California city on the ball when it comes to the drought

LOS ANGELES -- Warm, dry winds are blowing across much of California on Wednesday, where 95 percent of the state is in severe drought. In some regions every drop of water is precious, and one city is on the ball.

In the midst of California's historic drought its perhaps the most unusual way yet to save water, dumping tens of thousands of plastic balls into a Los Angeles reservoir. The plastic balls join millions more already floating there.

en0812blackstone3.jpg
Shade balls being lowered into a LA reservoir. CBS News

"We have 96 million balls out on this reservoir," said Richard Harasick, an engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The floating black balls help save water.

shadeballs4.jpg
LADWP

"It just keeps the sunlight off of it so the evaporation can't occur at all," said Harasick.

In California evaporation is now an enemy.

"By reducing evaporation, the shade balls will conserve 300 million gallons of water each year, instead of just evaporating into the sky," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "That's 300 million gallons to fight this drought."

"That's enough water for 2,700 average homes in Los Angeles," said Harasick.

There's a lot of complaints about plastic in water, but Harasick said the plastic balls wont add to that kind of pollution.

"Nothing leeches out of it. Nothing gets in the water," he said.

Building a roof over the 174 acre reservoir would cost $25o million. It cost $35 million to cover it with the balls. In California, when it comes to saving water, no one wants to drop the ball.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.