The little shade balls pack a big economic punch.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power this week floated the last 20,000 of 96 million shade balls into the Los Angeles Reservoir in Granada Hills.

The project has saved the utility more than $250 million in capital improvements in complying with federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding surface water treatment.

Those simple 4-inch, black plastic balls float on top of the 175-acre reservoir, blocking much of the sunlight from reaching the water’s surface, the DWP said.

This protects from chemical reactions that may cause algae blooms and other environmental exposures, said Richard Harasick, the DWP’s director of water operations.

The balls also cut the amount of water lost to evaporation by about 300 million gallons annually.

The half-pound balls, each weighted with eight ounces of water, are heavy enough to prevent much sloshing around when the wind blows, he said.

The DWP is getting a pretty good bang for its shade ball pennies.

Covering the reservoir, which is 90 feet deep, could have cost as much as $400 million, Harasick said.

The whole batch of balls cost $34.5 million, or about 36 cents each.

Glendora-based XavierC LLC provided 6.4 million shade balls, and Artisan Screen Printing in Azusa provided 89.6 million balls.

Sydney Chase, president and owner of XavierC, said her company owns 15 machines that make the balls. Each is capable of producing 20 million a year, but one machine is producing enough for the company’s current needs.

XavierC’s offices are in Glendora and the balls are produced at a facility in Colton.

Chase, who has worked in the manufacturing industry for 30 years, said she started XavierC in 2013.

“We just finished a project with the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in Calabasas,” she said. “They took in close to 1 million balls and we’re working with several others including a waste water treatment plant in Southern California.”

Shade balls have been used for water-quality compliance at other DWP open-air reservoirs, including Upper Stone, Elysian and Ivanhoe, since 2008.

The Granada Hills reservoir is the DWP’s largest and contains more than 3.3 billion gallons of water. It was put into service in 1977.

A similar product called bird balls have been used where water collects along airport runways to keeps birds away.

— Staff Writer Kevin Smith contributed to this report.


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