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December 2, 2016

Karnataka staring at a major drinking water crisis as reservoir levels plunge

The failure of the monsoons in the state for the second consecutive year has, besides driving farmers into despair, plunged the major urban centres - including the capital city Bengaluru - into a major drinking water crisis . The water level at all 13 major reservoirs in Karnataka has plummeted to a 10-year low, and with no rains being forecast for the next week, the state could be staring at a major drinking water crisis.
Data from the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), accessed by TOI, reaffirmed the prospect of a severe drinking water problem in the summer months next year. Bengaluru could be looking at a parched summer, with the water level at the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) reservoir touching a 15-year low. "The capacity of KRS reservoir is 124.80ft. On Tuesday, the water level stood at 78.41ft, while it stood at 110.51ft for the corresponding period last year. The situation is no better at the Kabini and Tungabhadra reservoirs - the deficit is 20ft at Kabini, it is 43ft at Tungabhadra," said an official from KSNDMC.

A senior official from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) said that water rationing was the only plausible option the body had to ensure sustained water supply to Bengaluru's citizens till June 2017. "We will have to supply water to the city with what little reserves there are in the KRS. So, we will have to reduce the amount of water supplied, to avert the possibility of taps running dry before the onset of the next monsoon," he added.

The failure of the north-east monsoon has only compounded the state's woes. A KSNDMC official pointed out that the average daily rainfall in Karnataka in the last week of November under normal conditions was 8mm. "However, the state received no rain in this period. Also, between October 1 and November 25, the state recorded just 37mm rain, against the normal 174mm - a 79% deficit," he added.
Furthermore, the KSNDMC data also indicates that a majority 3,600 minor irrigation tanks across the state too are facing a crippling shortage of water. While about 432 of the tanks had are filled to more than 50% capacity, more than 1,500 of them are just one-third full. The remaining 45% of the tanks are completely dry.
Reservoir - Water Level in feet (as on November 29) - Capacity (in feet) - Deficit (in feet)
Linganamakki: 1793 - 1818.60 - 25.60
Supa: 1790 - 1849 - 59
Varahi: 1918 - 1949 - 31
Harangi: 2815 - 2858 - 43
Hemavathi: 2864 - 2921 - 57
KRS: 78.41 - 124.80 - 46.39
Kabini: 2263 - 2283 - 20
Bhadra: 2116 - 2157 - 41
Tungabhadra: 1589.78 - 1632.78 - 43
Ghataprabha: 2149 - 2174 - 25
Malaprabha: 2054 - 2078 - 24
Almatti: 1696 - 1704 - 8
Narayanapura: 1608 - 1614 - 6
Power generation, agriculture hit
With water level dropping at the Linganamakki and Supa reservoirs, power generation at the hydroelectric stations too has taken a beating.
Scanty rainfall has also impacted agriculture. While the total area that can be utilised for Rabi crop cultivation in the state is 32.25 lakh hectares during this time of the year, only 19.67 lakh hectares have witnessed sowing activity, as on November 21. In 2015, Rabi crops were sown on 27.75 lakh hectares.