Throughout 2015, North America has experienced countless droughts. Despite numerous technological innovations designed to combat water shortage, locations in the Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United States of America have been experiencing droughts for much of the year.
Some of the techniques used to combat the effects of these droughts are simple. In April 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown implemented the first mandatory water restrictions of the year for the moisture-deprived state.
The island of Puerto Rico is in a similar bind. According to Heather Janssen of AccuWeather.com, some Puerto Rico residents were also put on a water usage restriction, “Some residents on the island have water turned off for 48 hours and then back on for 24 hours while others are going without water in 24-hour and 12-hour cycles.”
Furthermore, areas in Canada, particularly parts of British Columbia, display signs of a severe drought as well. As reported by Cheryl Santa Maria of The Weather Network, water restrictions on British Columbia began June 1.
Although residents are cooperating, Mother Nature is not. The already dry conditions make drought-struck and brush-ridden places like British Columbia and California more prone to wildfires.
Kerry Anderson is a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service. Anderson told NPR in July, “The situation in Canada is extreme right now, specifically in Western Canada.”
These areas, particularly British Columbia and Saskatchewan, contain such deadly fires that thousands of people were evacuated. According to NPR reporter Nathan Rott, “[…] more than 10,000 square miles – roughly the size of Massachusetts – have burned in Canada.”
Because of the heated air around the area, these wildfires are more difficult for firefighters to contain then put out. Not only do they spread to residential and other areas, but it seems some unhelpful hobby drones are interrupting the extinguishing process as well.
In California, on July 17 wildfires near Interstate 15 took longer to put out, on account of civilian drones flying into the airspace of the flaming brush.
In a statement on CNN, Spokesman Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department reported “Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities to report, but the 15 to 20 minutes that those helicopters were grounded meant that 15 to 20 minutes were lost that could have led to another water drop cycle, and that would have created a much safer environment and we would not have seen as many citizens running for their lives.”
Meanwhile, another technological innovation is influencing droughts in California, but engineers hope it will be a positive influence. On Aug. 12, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power along with the Mayor of Los Angeles released the last batch of the total 96 million plastic shade balls into the Los Angeles Reservoir.
The balls are onyx-colored, light enough to float on top of the water, and according to TIME Magazine, “UV resistant to heat.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the local ABC news station KABC, “By reducing evaporation, these shade balls will conserve 300 million gallons of water each year.”
The concept of a shade ball fill is not new. According to a TIME Magazine infographic about the robust balls, the Ivanhoe, Elysian and Upper Stone Canyon reservoirs have all been filled with shade balls from 2008 to 2012.
However, as days without rain increase in Puerto Rico and wildfires continue to plague Canada, perhaps these new shade balls are a worthwhile idea for drought-ridden areas to toy with.