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In an attempt to combat crippling drought, California has a ballsy idea.

Shade balls, to be exact. City officials dumped the last 20,000 of them into the Los Angeles Reservoir in Sylmar this week, bringing the total to 96 million. Before you raise an eyebrow though, keep in mind that the 10-centimetre-diameter plastic balls actually have quite an ingenious purpose.

Shade balls do exactly what their name implies: create shade. Millions of them were poured into the reservoir to physically block sunlight from penetrating its 175-acre surface, preventing the forces evaporation from sucking its precious water supply away. They also prevent harmful chemical reactions that can cause algae blooms and other problems which could potentially threaten drinking-quality requirements.

Reservoir
Here’s what the reservoir looks like now.

While you might question how much water these shade balls could really save, they’re expected to block 1 billion litres of water from drying up every year. Plus, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says the $34.5 million initiative could help save $250 million when compared to other alternatives for water quality protection and conservation. The balls don’t even require any labour or assembly, aside from having to be occasionally rotated.

“In the midst of California’s historic drought, it takes bold ingenuity to maximize my goals for water conservation,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement, noting that the effort is “emblematic of the kind of the creative thinking we need to meet those challenges.”

Guess we could say California just threw some epic shade. Check out the video above.