Why Are 96,000,000 Black Balls on This Reservoir?

I took a boat through 96 million black plastic balls on the Los Angeles reservoir to find out why they're there. The first time I heard about shade balls the claim was they reduce evaporation. But it turns out this isn't the reason they were introduced.

Huge thanks to LADWP for arranging this special tour for me. Next time let's put the GoPro on the submersible!

The balls are made of high density polyethylene (HDPE) which is less dense than water so they float on the surface of the reservoir even if they break apart. They are 10cm (4 inches) in diameter and contain about 210ml of water. So the main reason they are on the reservoir is to block sunlight from entering the water and triggering a chemical reaction that turns harmless bromide into carcinogenic bromate. This effect occurs with prolonged exposure to bromate so regulators insist that levels be kept below 10 microgram per liter on average over a 12 month period.

Special thanks to Patreon supporters:
Donal Botkin, Michael Krugman, Ron Neal, Stan Presolski, Terrance Shepherd, Penward Rhyme and everyone who provided feedback on an early draft of this video.

Thanks to:
Las Virgenes Reservoir for footage of initial shade ball dump
Euro-Matic for bird into jet-engine footage

Researched and Produced by Casey Rentz

Animations by Maria Raykova

Music from http://epidemicsound.com "Colorful Animation 4" "Seaweed"

And from Kevin MacLeod "Marty Gots a Plan"

This is an educational video about the science of water quality.
  • nwmacguy

    Why shade balls aren’t such a great idea after allhttps://grist.org/article/why-shade-balls-arent-such-a-great-idea-after-all/

  • NobodyReally

    Finally watched part of this and YouTube stopped spamming me with it. I guess these saved the Earth.

  • Sharky Playz

    5:51 anyone else see that bird? Lol

  • Purushothaman N

    Any thing can reacts with sunlight and Black colour is more likely to observe sunlight in means of Heat and also the possibility is more reaction will Happen between this water and Dissolved Chemicals of the Balls in People Drinking water thus leads to Cancer of Human lungs kidney even Blood and brain.. so people Please be away from this Water.. Go for Harvesting Techniques of Rain water to increase under ground Land Water which is very pure and healthy drinking water than this type of treated Brominated, Chlorinated abnormal water.

  • Jeff Conant

    World's largest boba drink?

  • foxopossum

    Absolutely amazing. People are so clever!

  • StringNavigator

    5:51 He didn't ever know what happened...

  • Johny40Se7en

    That seems very clever to start with but then you have plants living in the water that are gonna die and rot, and that's gonna be in the drinking water. Would ammonia or something start to form when the plants in the water die off?

  • Werner huber

    I bet these plastic balls are more toxic....

  • Martin Cotterill

    Do these things degrade? Microplastics in drinking water?

  • Markey Wholebrook

    All this hot plastic in your water reservoir is going to lead to something worse, unnatural and ridiculous ;p

  • Thumper

    Polyethylene like in a milk jug.... my question us it bpa free? Sorry but I wouldn't drink it...


    hahahha quality worlds biggest ball pit 😁

  • UPMiner 616

    Because an engineer named Brooke worked there.....

  • John Obbard

    It doesn't even cover the entire thing?

  • Alan Gassner

    Why didn't they use solar panels as have been experimentally used elsewhere?

  • G Fernández

    5:53 bird gets sucked thru jet engine and how can u use gas powered engines in a drinking reservoir??? We have pristine drinking reservoirs in Pennsylvania, but our plumbing is ancient giving rusty or coal ash filled water.

  • Raymonds Entertainment

    Glad I learned something new today

  • Alex Keen

    This video didn't answer my question - if you fell in, would you drown?

  • TheEAtoday


  • Mary Antonio

    I was wondering if it's safe to run a gasoline powered boat in a drinking water reservoir.

  • Ade Stickbaby

    I'm sure Metallica had black balls floating on their audience a few years ago. Just sayin'.

  • Constitution_89

    Again, the Luciferians screwing around with God's Natural Order of Nature. KILL these Demonic people because They intend to Kill us as part of their UN Agenda 21-30 Depopulation Program. Look it up, it's ALL Right there to be read in their written Agenda for Humanity. Any of you who don't bother to research the facts of this are just Stupid and Lazy and shouldn't have the Right to say a damn thing that refutes Any of it because your Stupidity Disqualifies you from doing so.

  • Wilson Kwong

    Gonna make the water smells really plastic

  • Joseph Murphy

    WE BE GOING STRONG NINE YEAR OLDS! Black plastic balls ain’t no match for us!

  • nwmacguy

    L.A. Says Goodbye to ‘Shade Balls’ https://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-shade-balls-water-quality.html

  • Stavros Libavius

    In a few years they will need to be cleaned from the microbes that have been adhered to and created colonies

  • Chuyi Cui

    I don't like this solution so much. How is it not also a type of pollution?

  • Michael Katsiambirtas

    Finally watched it! Always in my playlist! Wasted my time as usual

  • Feeluck

    how to put massive ammounts of microplastics into your water. those shadeballs are rubbing on themselves producing ALOT of microplastics. right into your drinking water.good job.

  • gerry rodriguez

    The bleach salesman had to look for another job. Lol

  • Jackson Payne

    That girl is such a stoner

  • nwmacguy

    The drought-busting balls that don't bust droughthttps://www.engadget.com/2016/09/21/the-big-picture-shade-balls-los-angeles-reservoir/

  • Brandon Burns

    Anyone else peep that seagull getting killed in jet at 5:52

  • Mikeys_wildlife

    Great more "recyclable" plastic..

  • Kashiii3

    Great! Filling 96 million plastic balls half with waterGlobal warming: laugh in plastic

  • Adam Procter

    Much like other good people on here, I've been spammed with this, so, here's somwhat of a rubuttal to some of statements made by Marty Adams. Firstly, food grade plastic "in some instances" does actually contain 4-n-Nonylphenol (NP), which is a non-ionic surfactant according to [Chemosphere Journal]. I'm not saying this is present in these shade balls, but some food grade plastics have been proven to contain it,. Therefore, it is a "possibility" that warrants futher research in light of the following.4-n-NP is an endocrine disruptor (ED). The TLDR of it is that this means it can, and does, effect the life cycles of animals and plants - including reproduction [Journal of Reproductive Toxicology], and immune system response [Fish and Shellfish Immunology]. In many cases regarding marine organisms, EDs in certain concentrations have caused sterility (unable to reproduce). Reseserch is still out on the effect it has on humans but [conspiracy alert!] I don't think it's a big leap to see that EDs are at least, in part, to blame for the dramatic drop in human fertiliy rates since pre--indistrial times. A research article from [Reproductive Toxicology] eldudes to the former.There a lot more to talk about regarding this but, suffice it to say, stay safe out there. I might actually consider a video response this if it garners enough interest.

  • benjamin lundell

    Me: I've never seen so many black balls in one placePornhub: Hold my beer

  • Thiago Fogagnoli Costa

    1:27 Turns out Christian Bale was Marty Adams on Vice

  • filthyswit

    Are they chocolate and salty?

  • Matt James

    More education on YouTube now then i ever had at school back in the day and who needs TV when you have this place.

  • gerry rodriguez

    They are called bird balls. We used them on our toxic, acidic mining solution ponds at the copper mine I managed. They keep the birds out. The birds won't land on the balls, so they prevent birds from getting poisoned in the toxic ponds.

  • Joel Williams

    What these California idiots didn't consider, is that plastic standing in sunlight, & heated water will emit microscopic polymer particles over time, & thus tainting the water, as is the "Pacific/Asian Garbage Circles" are doing...right now.This is what happens when stupid people vote for stupid people to run their world. Their tax $$ pays for 96 million gaw'damn balls, that will eventually poison their drinking water. Stupid kills...

  • K T

    Very creative to help drinking water

  • Feeluck

    i never expected my bro-mate to be harmful. shame on you bro-mate!

  • Hero's domain

    is it weird that i want one of them shade balls not just any i want one of them lol

  • Purushothaman N

    If the sunlight not enter into this water then growing microflora under the water which is beneficial for any living being and which could be no more in the water, thus leads a cause for lethal drinking water, No life under water means no life in the water. Who going to drink this have no normal life on this earth.. can any one thing about which food is non degradable, you and me are all made up of degradable Biomaterials, The truth is like this then Where is this food grade quality coming from the Hell.. O what a Stupidity, using Science to make videos to Fool common Human Civilians.. Bad Bad Bad this is very very Bad thoughtful idea for humankind..

  • Isaac Leath

    If you fell in, would they hold you up?

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