The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is an annual, three-day event connecting thought leaders in sustainable building from around the world. Greenbuild 2015, held in Washington D.C. in October, featured educators, exhibitors, speakers, volunteers, and vendors all coming together to network and share the latest innovations and inspirations in sustainable building. One of the most popular topics at this year’s Greenbuild conference was the ongoing effort to enhance water protection and combat California’s historic drought; one of the latest innovations in this space is the precision shade ball. Made of thin, high density polyethylene, these small water ballasts, about 4” in diameter, line the surface of reservoirs to block the sunlight that causes evaporation. Protecting Resources from Evaporation The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that reservoirs lose more water to evaporation than they do to human use. Therefore, protecting these water sources is critical to ensuring that the resources last for as long as possible. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) added 9,000,000 shade balls to the Los Angeles Reservoir to blanket the surface and mitigate evaporation. In addition to preventing evaporation, shade balls deter birds and reduce the occurrence of bromate. Birds that could contaminate drinking water with organic waste or sustain injury from dwelling in wastewater generally avoid reservoirs lined with shade balls. Bromate, a suspected carcinogen, forms when bromide and chlorine react with sunlight. Shade balls block up to 90% of sunlight, preventing this reaction and protecting human drinking water resources. Developing New Ideas for a Better World "Greenbuild brought together industry experts and bold new ideas for a better world,” said Anik Shah, President of shade ball manufacturer Precision Plastic Ball Company. “I enjoyed spreading the word on our Shade Ball product, saving drinking water one drop at a time." During the exposition portion of Greenbuild 2015, visitors frequently stopped by Shah’s booth to ask about shade balls. Some of the most common questions included:
- Why are they black?
- Don’t they fly away?
- How long do they last?
- Is there any leaching from the plastic or color?
- How do they prevent algae growth?
- Are they cost effective?