Cities across India have started water rationing

The 2019 summer is going to be intensely water scarce as cities find themselves without adequate water sources 

By Sushmita Sengupta
Published: Tuesday 20 November 2018
Water tanker
Chennai relies on 4,000 private water tankers to deliver 200 milion liters of water every day. Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE Chennai relies on 4,000 private water tankers to deliver 200 milion liters of water every day. Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE

India is six months away from a lean period and yet news on water stress, municipal water supply cuts and rationing of water has already started pouring. Cities like Mumbai, Jaipur, Lucknow, Nagpur and Chennai are facing an acute shortage of water and many have started water rationing.  

In 2018, a NITI Aayog report said that 54 per cent of India’s groundwater wells are declining, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting almost 100 million people. Bridging this gap by relying solely on groundwater is not a feasible solution, opine experts.

A 2018 report by WaterAid adds that the demand of water will also increase with the rise in urbanisation. Already, the number of people living in urban areas increased by 1.6 times from 2001 to 2011.

Here’s a lowdown on cities facing water stress-


In mid November, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) announced 10 per cent cut in water supply in the city and cut the supply timing by 15 per cent. Mumbai's water supply comes from Modak Sagar, Tansa lake, Vehar lake, Tulsi lake, Upper Vaitarna, Bhatsa and Middle Vaitarna. While Bhatsa and Upper Vaitarna are under maintained by the state government, the other lakes are maintained by the BMC. Water stocks in seven reservoirs is 15 per cent lesser than the previous year, say media reports. Mumbai has faced water rationing previously as well. In 2015, it was 20 per cent, 20 per cent in 2014, and 30 per cent water rationing was imposed in 2009. The BMC recently announced that the rationing will be continued until it rains in 2019.


Jaipur also started facing water rationing even before the monsoon ended in September this year. This was due to less flow of water from Bisalpur dam, the main source of water in the city in Rajasthan. The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), responsible for water supply, has received complaints on weak monitoring and improper rationing. Due to lower rainfall, the reserve in the dam has been affected. PHED is now supplying water for 45 to 70 minutes as opposed to the usual one and half hour. The supply to Jaipur from this dam has reduced from 44 crores litre every day to 35 crores litre per day. The PHED has planned to dig 279 new tube wells and restore 273 old tube wells as per news reports.


Chennai, another port city is also facing a water crisis. In the beginning of November, media reports stated that the reservoirs supplying water to Chennai have storage for only 15 days. In case, there is not enough rain by the end of November, the city will reel under a severe water crisis. Cholavaram and Chembarambakkam are almost dry, holding just 2 per cent and 6 per cent of their total storage. The combined storage in the four reservoirs on November 3 was 1,758 million cubic feet (mcft) against 2,114 mcft recorded the same time last year. The city received 675 MLD (million litres a day) of which 520 MLD is for households. Generally, the supply is around 830 MLD. This year, 165 MLD was being pumped from Veeranam reservoir every day, 100 MLD from Nemmeli desalination plant and 100 MLD from Minjur desalination plant. The officials say that the city has not started rationing water but is supplying water on every alternate day. The city is trying for alternatives like quarries, pumping of agricultural wells and lake water. Restrictions have been imposed on groundwater withdrawal in the city.


The city of Nagpur is also preparing itself for water cuts in the upcoming months, say news reports. This is because of poor storage of Pench reservoirs. This month, the District Water Reservation Committee reduced the water supply to the city and other towns in the district due to lower water reserve in the reservoir. From November 1, the committee made an allocation of 155 Million Cubic Metres (mcm) water to Nagpur Municipal Corporation as against the supply of 195 mcm. This is likely to continue for a year.


Water rationing has also begun in Bhatinda, Punjab and Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh as these cities failed to plan for sustainable sources. In Bhatinda, almost 50 per cent of supply has been cut down due to the repair of the Sirhind Canal, the only source of water. The city has no other option but to rely on the contaminated groundwater.


The single source water and lack of sustainability plan have also put Lucknow under water stress. Few pockets like Gomtinagar and Indira Nagar depend on Kathauta lake, which receive water from Sharda Canal, currently closed for maintenance. The water supply has been reduced to five hours/day from 16 hours/day. The lake has a stock of only seven days in mid November. Every year, the residents face the same problem and as an alternate they switch to groundwater and tanker supply. Alternate sustainable sources are yet to be planned for many areas in the city.

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