Tungabhadra dam faces water shortage amidst declining reservoir levels in Karnataka

Amidst the anticipation of the upcoming monsoon season, concerns arise as twenty-two reservoirs in Karnataka witness a decline in water levels compared to the previous year. This shortage of drinking water from Tungabhadra dam to Hubballi-Dharwad raises alarm among the affected populace, emphasizing the pressing need for immediate action.

The bitter aftermath of a prolonged rainy season that extended until December last year is felt keenly as Karnataka grapples with an acute shortage in its reservoirs. With the capacity to store a substantial 860.27 tmc ft of water, these 22 reservoirs currently hold a meager 167.42 tmc ft as of May 19. A more concerning figure emerges when considering that only 79.30 tmc ft represents live storage, the water accessible for utilization. This alarming situation amplifies the urgency for immediate measures to address the pressing water scarcity in the state.

As mid-May arrives, a striking disparity emerges in the storage levels of Karnataka’s reservoirs, with a significant decrease of nearly 53.57 tmc ft compared to the previous year. On May 19, 2022, the reservoirs boasted a total of 220.99 tmc ft of water. Of particular concern is the Tungabhadra Reservoir near Hosapete, which currently holds a mere 3.6% of its total water storage capacity. The reservoir’s grim situation is illustrated by the fact that it currently houses just 3.722 tmc ft of water and 31.5 tmc ft of silt, leading to a reduced storage capacity from its original gross capacity of 105.78 tmc ft. These distressing figures highlight the urgent need for prompt action to mitigate the diminishing water resources in the region.

Mining and deforestation are identified as causes of silt accumulation, reducing storage capacity. As a result, Hosapete and Ballari cities face a water crisis, receiving drinking water once every 10 days. Insufficient storage facilities and an unplanned water supply system worsen the situation, according to Basappa Jankar, TB Dam Assistant Executive Engineer. Urgent action is required to address these issues and mitigate the water scarcity in the affected areas.

Among the 11 major reservoirs in Karnataka, including Almatti, Tungabhadra, Bhadra, Hidkal, Malaprabha, Narayanpur, K R S, Hemavathy, Kabini, and Harangi, a concerning trend emerges as seven of them have water levels in single digits. For instance, although the Narayanpur reservoir holds 16.06 tmc ft of water (48% of its gross storage capacity), the available water for consumption is a mere 1.3 tmc ft. Similarly, the largest reservoir in Karnataka, Almatti, currently has only 6.2 tmc ft of water in live storage, despite its total gross storage capacity of 123.08 tmc ft. While officials maintain that Karnataka may not face drinking water scarcity this year, numerous cities and rural areas continue to grapple with the pressing issue.

The cities of Belagavi and Hubballi-Dharwad are facing water supply challenges despite having sufficient water in Hidkal and Renukasagara Reservoirs, which cater to their drinking water needs. Residents of these cities are currently receiving water only once a week, as L&T, responsible for ensuring 24×7 water supply, encounters difficulties in streamlining the distribution system.

In Udupi, authorities have taken the decision to distribute drinking water once every three days starting from May 19. Consequently, several educational institutions with hostels and residential facilities have declared holidays. Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, has urged students residing in hostels to conserve water due to erratic water supply from the municipal corporation. Rakesh Singh, the Additional Chief Secretary of the Water Resource Department, mentioned that the release of water for crops over an extended period, decided by the Irrigation Consultative Committees (ICC) of respective rivers compared to the previous year, could be a contributing factor to the reduced water levels. However, he reassured that Karnataka would not face a shortage of drinking water this year.

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