While North Karnataka has been hit hard by the dry spell and is facing a severe drinking water shortage, it is the districts of south-interior Karnataka which are digging deeper into the ground and overexploiting groundwater resources. The northern districts are facing groundwater depletion levels of a maximum of 35 metres depth, but the levels have sunk to as low as 60 metres depth in Kolar and Chikkaballapur. Borewells are now being sunk as deep as 1,300 feet in Kolar and Chikkaballapur, while in Northern Karnataka, the levels are not more than 600 feet.
Despite this, groundwater level in south-interior Karnataka districts is much better than northern districts.
According to G S Srinivas Reddy, Director of Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, the water table remain stable in south interior Karnataka as water is not used much for irrigation.
“In North Karnataka, shortage of drinking water has forced officials to fill the tanks under lift irrigation schemes to ensure drinking water supply. If the canals are filled due to rainwater, groundwater level also increases but this is surface water coming from the reservoir. So, even if the tank fills up, it will not improve the groundwater level,” he said.
The severity of deficient rainfall in 2015 is bearing heavily on most of the districts with groundwater levels declining to extremely low levels. After the failure of both kharif and rabi crops last year, the 12 districts of North Karnataka are reeling under severe water shortage now.
Officials in the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Department said the failure of crops has had a cascading effect. “Yes, the severity has increased. Districts like Kalaburagi, Belagavi, Ballari, Raichur, Yadgir, Koppal and Vijayapura have borne the brunt of depleted groundwater levels. Only a few taluks in Haveri have managed to do better, ” said Manjunath Naik, Commissioner of Rural Water Supply in RDPR.
The RDPR depends on observation borewells and open wells set up by the Department of Mines and Geology to assess the groundwater water levels on a monthly basis.
Bengaluru Teetering on the Edge
About four lakh borewells dot Bengaluru city, making it imperative for the city to adopt measures to recharge some of the water it is using up. At present, the city consumes 1,400 million litres a day (mld) and very little of it is treated.
Rainwater harvesting expert S Vishwanath says treating water could help recharge aquifers and wetlands. “The potential is enormous. Sinking those borewells has come at a cost of around `8,000 crore. At least, they should protect that investment,” he said.
Vishwanath said the state could also follow the example of Andhra Pradesh, where people are encouraged to pool resources and share borewells.
K’taka seeks water from Maharashtra
The state government has decided to send a team of officials to Maharashtra to request the government to release water from Krishna and Bhima rivers, as the drought condition worsens and reservoirs show depleted levels. Water Resources Minister M B Patil said, “Several villages across the Karnataka-Maharashtra border are facing acute water crisis. CM Siddaramaiah has already appealed to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis.”