Water reservoirs were 38% emptier in ‘dry’ August

Water levels in the river basins in southern, eastern India decreased significantly

By Vivek Mishra
Published: Tuesday 05 September 2023
Photo: iStock

India experienced the driest August since 1901 this year, and the effect is visible in the reservoirs in the country. Throughout the third month of monsoon 2023, the water storage level in the total 150 reservoirs remained about 38 per cent below the live storage capacity. 

The live storage in the reservoirs is 113.417 billion cubic meters (BCM), which is 63 per cent of the total live storage capacity, according to a bulletin issued by the Central Water Commission (CWC) on August 31, 2023. This is about 23 per cent less than the storage during the same period in 2022 and about nine per cent less than the same period in the last 10 years. 

On August 10, 2023, the live storage in the reservoirs was 109.98 BCM, which was 62 per cent of the total live storage capacity. A week later, on August 17, 2023, the live storage did not improve and was 111.285 BCM — only 62 per cent of the total live storage capacity. 

There was marginal improvement a week later and on August 24, 2023, the live storage of the reservoirs was 113.584 BCM — 64 per cent of the total live storage capacity. However, the latest bulletin shows it has again reduced by one per cent i.e. 63 per cent. 

An analysis of the CWC bulletin shows that live storage in reservoirs remained between 62 and 64 per cent of the total capacity in the month of August. This has resulted in acute water shortages in many basins.

The water levels in the Pennar river flowing in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in south India and Chhattisgarh in east central India and the Mahanadi, the largest river in Odisha, have become highly deficient.

The levels in rivers Subarnarekha, Brahmani and Vaitarni flowing in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha; Kaveri river flowing in Karnataka and northern Tamil Nadu; Mahi, a major river in western India; Krishna river originating from the southwest and flowing east and rivers flowing from Tadri towards Kanyakumari have all become deficient.

A 20 per cent reduction in a river basin is close to normal, according to the CWC. A basin is cetgorised as deficient if the reduction is greater than 20 per cent and less than or equal to 60 per cent. A reduction of over 60 per cent is called highly deficient. 

The water level in the Ganga, Barak and Tapi basins is close to normal, the CWC bulletin said. Water storage in the reservoirs of the eastern, western, central and southern regions — except the northern region — is less than last year. However, the situation is not the same in all states. 

The storage is less than normal in Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal. In the western region, there has been a decrease in storage in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have recorded a huge deficiency in water storage. 

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