Plunging reservoir levels across India a worrying sign

The water level in 91 major reservoirs across the country as on April 13 stood at just 35.839 billion cubic metres as against 253.388 

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 18 April 2016

The latest India Meteorological Department forecast that the country will witness an above average monsoon this year brought cheer at a time when things looked bleak on the agrarian front.

However, with rains set to arrive two months later, the immediate anxiety is plunging reservoir levels. With summer at its peak, the water volume in 91 major reservoirs across the country as on April 13 stood at 35.839 billion cubic metres (BCM) which is just 23 per cent of the total storage capacity of the dams surveyed.

Taken together, these reservoirs make up a little over 60 per cent of India’s total storage capacity which stands at 253.388 BCM in normal times.

Plunging water levels

The disturbing data has been brought out by the weekly reservoir storage status report issued by the Central Water Commission. The latest released levels of major dams mark a drop of six percentage points from the levels recorded in early March.

The current reservoir levels are 67 per cent of the storage recorded this time last year and 77 per cent of the average storage recorded in the past 10 years.

In terms of live storage level in the reservoirs, no region in the country has registered a live storage of even 35 per cent of the total dam capacity. Live storage is the level at which water can be discharged from reservoirs for use.

Dams in South India have recorded the lowest water levels at just 15 per cent of the surveyed capacity in the entire region. The western part of India has recorded marginally better levels at 18 per cent. Reservoirs in the eastern side have recorded the highest storage levels (34 per cent of the total live storage capacity) whereas central Indian dams have registered storage levels of 31 per cent.

As a result of poor monsoon in 2015, no part of the country has registered a positive trend when compared to the storage levels during the corresponding period last year.

A look at the current storage levels relative to the average storage in the past 10 years offers a positive insight when it comes to one aspect.

The current storage level in the reservoirs of central India has registered a positive trend with storage on April 13 this year registering an increase of five percentage points as compared to the past 10 years.

The southern and western regions are the two worst-performing regions, registering a negative figure of 10 and 22 percentage points respectively.


Total Capacity of surveyed reservoirs (in BCM)

No. of reservoirs

Current storage in percentage (BCM)

Percentage of storage as of March 10, 2016 (BCM)

Storage during corresponding period last year (in percentage)

Average storage during corresponding period over the past 10 years

Northern (Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan)



23 (4.15)

27 (4.89)



Eastern (Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura)



34 (6.40)

44 (8.27)



Western (Gujarat and Maharashtra)



18 (4.89)

26 (6.97)



Central (Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh)



31 (12.95)

36 (15.30)



Southern (Andhra Pradesh, Telangan, Karnatak, Kerala and Tamil Nadu)



15 (7.55)

20 (10.37)



States registering better than normal storage (average storage over the past 10 years) are West Bengal, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh. States having lesser storage than normal are Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

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  • As long as the governments under political pressure use indiscriminately in good inflows years, there is no way we can stop drying of lakes/reservoirs in dry years. So, government must put a guideline that regulates the water like in the traditional tank in villages.

    Also, government must stop farmers growing water intensive crops like sugarcane, paddy & wheat in high variable inflows in reservoirs -- low sustainable water flows.

    Also, government must bring out a law on ground water use -- stop cultivating water intensive crops and supply to soft drinks manufacturing companies but give priority to drinking water use. Give priority to interlinking of rivers.

    Also, central government must look in to projects that are not viable in terms of sustainable water availability -- as governments are building such projects for percentages running in to thousands of crores.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy | 4 years ago | Reply
  • A question about storage capacity of reservoirs. We all know that most reservoirs, especially large one with huge catchments, are getting silted up increasingly rapidly ever since they were built. Is the rate of this siltation monitored and calculated reservoir wise? If yes, then How? For example, the Gobind Sagar behind the Bhakra Nangal dam (commissioned in 1952) is nearly fully silted up (as one can see), but when live storage capacity is mentioned, has the loss of capacity due to silting up been taken into account? So when we read that the Norther reservoirs in HP, Punjab and Rajasthan have a storage capacity of 18.01 BCM, has the silting up been taken into account? If not, then the whole picture would change dramatically and we would be talking about something else? If indeed the rate of silting is being taken into account, then how long would these reservoirs last including the desiltation that might be done periodically?


    Posted by: VINAY | 4 years ago | Reply