Kerala Water Authority warns of water crisis in several districts

Officials say situation will worsen by April and Kasaragod will be the worst hit. Despite having 12 rivers, the district has no dams
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only. (Express Illustration)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rising temperatures have been gripping Kerala even before the arrival of summer, forcing the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) to issue heat wave warnings since mid-February. Now, various agencies are warning of severe water shortage in the coming months.

The water crisis is going to be critical this summer in many districts of the state, according to the Kerala Water Authority (KWA).

“The situation will worsen by April. Kasaragod will be the worst hit. Despite having 12 rivers, the district has no dams,” Dinesan Cheruvat, joint managing director, KWA, said, adding there will be a huge supply-demand this summer.

The authority is implementing projects worth `19,700 crore to increase drinking water production. According to officials, the water treatment plant projects are in various stages of implementation. The plan is to increase drinking water production by 1,400 MLD over the next two to three years. “The projects will take a minimum of 18 months to complete and as a result this summer is going to be difficult,” he said.

As part of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), however, KWA has provided functional household tap connections (FHTCs) to 3.68 million households, as of January 31, 2024. Yet, apart from expanding the supply network, the authority has failed to implement projects to boost water output, which will take another two or three years to complete, say officials

Meanwhile, with many parts of the state already hit by water shortage, the state government has issued funds to local bodies to manage the crisis.

Water shortage survey

The government has also roped in the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) to launch a survey to find pockets with the drinking water crisis. “We will complete the survey in two months. Summer is the ideal time for launching this survey. The plan is to take necessary intervention in those pockets to ensure drinking water during the summer,” said K P Sudheer, the council’s executive vice-president.

Long-term measures

Dinesan said that conservation and management of water sources will be crucial over the long term. “Kerala used to be a state with surplus water, but not any more. The southern districts received good rainfall till the first week of December and by February we are staring at a water crisis. It’s high time we conserve rainwater. There should be coordinated efforts by various agencies in the sector to adopt water conservation measures and avert the imminent crisis,” he said.

The state should start thinking about artificial wetlands and introduce policy changes for water conservation. “Conservation measures should be launched in water-deficient areas. Greywater recycling could also be crucial in the future,” Dinesan said.

Extreme weather predictions

With the state finding itself on the front lines of climate change, the KSCSTE has, in a study, predicted frequent extreme weather events, including floods and droughts, in the coming years. According to its projections, based on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), maximum and minimum temperatures in Kerala will rise by 1.7 degrees Celsius and 1.9C respectively by 2099, with annual rainfall going up by 400mm.

“Kerala will face extreme weather events. We faced drought conditions in 2014 and when 2018 happened our focus shifted to flooding. A drought situation is an imminent weather event that requires equal focus like floods. The state requires new strategies and policies to avert a water-related crisis in Kerala,” said Sudheer.

brace for a sweaty summer
brace for a sweaty summer

The National Water Mission (NWS) has entrusted KSCSTE with preparing a state-specific action plan for integrated water resource management for improved water governance. “The state is receiving good rainfall but the duration of rainy days has reduced. The average rainfall is good but the state is not benefitting as rainfall patterns have changed. High-intensity rain is happening in a short duration. We need to implement better conservation measures to improve the situation,” Sudheer added.

  • KWA plans to implement projects worth Rs 19,700cr to increase drinking water production during summer


66.89 % of state population covered by piped water supply, as of August 2023

KWA’s supply numbers

  • 914 No. of schemes operated and maintained by agency

  • 41.9L Total number of connections

  • 1.53L Total number of public taps

  • 39.99L Total number of domestic connections

  • 1.9L Total number of non-domestic connections

  • 97 litres/day | Average per capita availability of piped water

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