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Heatwave followed by a delayed monsoon is drying up India’s reservoirs that provide drinking water

Heatwave followed by a delayed monsoon is drying up India’s reservoirs that provide drinking water
  • Water levels in India’s reservoirs have been dipping consistently over the years.
  • Central Water Commission (CWC), which monitors the storage levels in 143 major reservoirs spread all over the country, reported Indus, Mahi and Sabarmati as highly deficient reservoirs on June 30.
  • As per the report, available live storage in the country’s 143 reservoirs monitored was at only 28% of their capacity.
Due to delayed monsoon and an extended summer ridden with heatwaves, India’s water reservoir level has been dipping. Over 30 large reservoirs across India don’t just have less water compared to last year, but far less compared to the average of the last 10 years.

This directly affects the daily water needs of cities and the ongoing Kharif sowing season. A drop in water reservoir level could also worsen India’s power cuts as 45 of 143 reservoirs aid hydropower generation.

While the southwest monsoon has finally descended into northwest India, the water level in India’s key reservoirs has not improved.

Central Water Commission (CWC), which monitors the storage levels in 143 major reservoirs spread all over the country, reported that Indus, Mahi and Sabarmati have highly deficient reservoirs as of June 30.

Ganga basin has reported a decline of 3% storage capacity from last month; Narmada, Godavari and Krishna are only at 20%, 29% and 26% of their capacity levels.

As per the report, available live storage in the country’s 143 reservoirs monitored was at only 28% of their capacity. 101 of the 143 monitored reservoirs were at 40% capacity or less.

The highest gaps in Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, as these states also reported the highest departures in cumulative rainfall.

India is highly dependent on rainfall for its drinking water and agricultural output

India’s monsoon not only provides relief from the sweltering heat but is the backbone of the agriculture industry. Timely and sufficient rainfall ensures sustenance for Indian farmers.

However, the monsoon season has become increasingly erratic in India and some regions have been hit harder by the change in rainfall patterns. Parts of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh have seen a significant shortfall in rains over the last decade compared to historical averages.

After a particularly hot summer this year, India’s reservoirs have lost most of their water to evaporation.

Shailendra Singh Rao, founder of climate change and carbon asset firm Creduce said that water conservation, preservation and storage is a huge problem in India.

“India’s drinking water comes from reservoirs, which are highly dependent on the monsoons. From November to June, all the water reservoirs are mostly exhausted and the water is mostly used. There is a lack of system wherein, the reservoirs are either technically not equipped enough or well connected to the other water channels, so there is no continuous flow of water in most of the reservoirs in the country,” said Rao.

A slight delay in monsoon, therefore, has a ripple effect on the entire agricultural cycle and on India’s overall drinking water supply.

“If it doesn't rain, there is no proper channel of natural currents or other sources to fill up the reservoir throughout the year. That is a major impact due to the delayed monsoon. Jaisalmer lake Udaipur, which is considered to be the biggest reservoir for drinking water in India, is almost exhausted and dried up. If the monsoon is delayed, the surrounding ecosystem of that reservoir will also get impacted drastically,” said Rao.

Due to this, sowing windows have been altered and it has been a weak start to Kharif sowing. Rice, maize, pulses such as urad, moong dal and millets are among the key Kharif crops.

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