CHENNAI: In these last few weeks, when the focus on the power play on the sands on Marina, and Fort St George and the rebel HQ on its either ends, an all too familiar catastrophe has been keeping the water managers worried: the monsoon failed, summer is two weeks away but the sun is already blazing, and reservoir after mighty reservoir across the State is turning bone dry.
Fed by water from the desalination plants, the agricultural wells in the neighbourhood, and from far off NLC mines, the capital is relatively better off. But the situation is grim in the districts. Last season, Tamil Nadu went through the second worst north east monsoon in 150 years, effects of which are evident all across the State.
All that the reservoirs now have is water that can barely last for about three months – only weeks in some cases like Vaigai that serves Madurai and three other southern districts. According to PWD officials, all 74 tanks in Dharmapuri in western region have gone dry. The situation is being managed with water from the Hogenakkal Drinking Water Scheme, which, however, is witnessing depleting levels.
In Amaravathi reservoir in Tirupur, water level was at 340 million cubic feet (mcft), which, if rationed judiciously, can be sufficient for about three weeks at best. Kangayam and Vellakoil municipalities in the district that are largely dependent on the Cauvery Drinking Water Scheme have discontinued water supply about two weeks ago.
With a ration of once a week, Dindigul in south is hoping to manage for about a month. But at Kodaikanal, the famed tourist spot, water is available only once every fortnight, which is expected to affect tourists this summer. The groundwater level at Kodumudi in Tirunelveli went down by about 15 feet, and with it the water supply frequency to once in about 10 days.
In Ariyalur, the backward district in the central region, Siddhamalli and Marudhayar reservoirs that are fed by rainwater are bone dry, so are the 12,000 acres of agriculture field that were dependent on these two water bodies. This scarcity comes at a price, often quite hefty for the poor. At Valliyoor and surrounding panchayats in Tirunelveli, for instance, a pot of water is being sold at Rs 5-10, depending on the quality.