Water crisis affects businesses across Bengaluru; Is there room for cautious optimism?

Water crisis affects businesses across Bengaluru; Is there room for cautious optimism?
If you step out into Bengaluru traffic these days, there’s a good chance you’ll discover a bulky water tanker spearheading the all-too-familiar clog in traffic. Amidst the ongoing water crisis, India’s Silicon City has mobilised thousands of tankers that zip, almost heroically, across the city, rescuing parched residences from the metro’s urban planning crisis.

Bidding to reduce their reliance on the exorbitant tankers — a necessary step after the exhaustion of half the city’s groundwater-fed borewells — many residential societies have begun innovating water-saving techniques, with varying degrees of success. However, for the several businesses and industries littering the metropolitan town, it seems like dark days are looming.

IT in turmoil

Hosting over 1,400 tech companies that employ tens of lakhs of employees, Bengaluru has certainly earned its title as India’s ‘Silicon Valley’. Not only has this driven a rapid boom in economic, infrastructural and industrial development, the city has acted as a magnet for people looking for attractive employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, this success has also resulted in population levels haphazardly spiking from 2,900 people per square kilometre in 2001 to 4,300 within a single decade. Estimates suggest that this figure may have breached 8,000 by now!

In addition to deterring water-cooler conversations, the lack of water in their workplaces have led to several companies already urging employees to work from home. Echoing a growing sentiment among the city’s techies, ex-Chief Justice K Sreedhar Rao also pleaded for temporary remote arrangements for migrant IT workers to depopulate Bengaluru till the water crisis is dealt with. However, many such multinational employees have already begun to preemptively take matters into their own hands by temporarily or permanently moving to other cities, such as the nearby Mysuru.


Needless to say, this has disrupted operations for many companies, including some of the top IT firms in Bengaluru. In a surprising turn of tragic events, senior personnel at Dell have begun skipping meetings to prioritise their procurement of water, reported the Deccan Herald.

Real estate rates to fall; restaurants forced to adapt

With pleasant weather the year round, Bengaluru has proven itself time and again as an excellent place to settle down and relax. The city’s diverse population is a testament to its uncanny ability to draw people from all over India, even before the city’s notable IT boom. Real estate has now hit an all-time high, with high demand and attractive financial options helping the sector grow exponentially in the past few decades, reportedly recording a staggering nine-year-high 54,000 housing units sold in 2023.

However, the city’s recent water woes have left potential property investors second-guessing. According to a recent Deccan Herald poll, around 60% of the respondents noted that they have postponed their move to Bengaluru due to the ongoing shortage, while a similar number of people have also begun evaluating investment options in other cities. Homebuyers have also begun to diligently inquire into groundwater borewell depths and water-saving technologies when consulting developers.

While many contractors remain firm that these reactions are not representative of a long-term trend, some experts have predicted that a fall in property prices may become inevitable. A Republic report explains that house rates could fall up to 10-15% in the most water-stressed regions of East and Central Bengaluru, including HSR Layout, Marathahalli, Rajaji Nagar and Peenya.

Needless to say, the crisis has also taken a toll on Bengaluru’s various hotels and eateries, many of which are severely dependent on tanker water for cooking, cleaning and drinking purposes. Krishna Raj, owner of the popular Nisarg Grand Hotel, explained that they might have to begin serving food in disposable utensils if the trend continues into the summer months.

Industrial district parched

Located in Northwest Bengaluru, Peenya is home to thousands of industries of varying sizes, producing a host of electronics, textiles, packaging, machines and other consumer items. However, being one of the largest industrial areas in Asia hasn’t protected its businesses from the ongoing crisis.

In an interview with Business Standard, Peenya Industries Association President H. M. Arif explained that the area’s micro-industries are strained to the point that many could be forced to close soon if the water crisis continues unmitigated. Many such sectors have also become hopelessly reliant on tanker water, and the associated rising costs have begun to bottleneck the manufacturing process. Prices of several commercial products could go up soon if this trend continues.

“Many from the hosiery or garment sector need water for processing,” Arif explains. “You need water for workers as well as other needs. The government is saying it will source recycled water for the industry. But for that, there is a tendering process and at this rate, we will not get water this season.”

Solutions and cautious optimism

This is not to say that the government isn’t taking measures to tackle the crisis. After ordaining centralised control over water tankers and actively regulating prices to ensure the city’s water isn’t hoarded solely by the rich, officials also placed bans on recreational water use.

In addition, initiatives are underway to “inject” 1,300 million litres of purified water into the city’s drying lakes per day, which the officials allege will help restore local groundwater levels. BWSSB has also announced plans to build an array of next-gen water treatment plants near restored lake beds to purify and deliver water wherever required.

Addressing the harsh summers ahead, Karnataka government officials have expressed optimism that the completion of the Cauvery Five — a massive array of treatment plants that will treat sewage to produce 100 million litres of water a day — will help make up for any deficits by July.

Meanwhile, many large corporations, including Microsoft, have begun utilising water-saving tap aerators to control water flow in the Bagmane Business Park offices.

The city’s water board, the BWSSB, has also launched four mobile apps to help tackle the city’s water crisis. Attempting to bridge a gap between the water department and the citizens it serves, these apps will help residents book water online, apply for borewell permissions, report water misuse and more.

At 24% of its total capacity, reservoirs across Karnataka are also drying up. Despite growing shortages, the state government has assured that the Cauvery River reservoir that supplies water to Bengaluru holds sufficient water levels to last at least until June. After that, the pre-monsoon and monsoon rains are expected to replenish the water resources.

However, the supply remains much lower compared to the demand, and the only way to survive this summer could be to adopt drastic water-saving measures and a few good spells of pre-monsoon showers.