Every drop counts, literally. The writing on the wall is clear. As the temperature soars, the elixir of life is going to get scarcer. Hyderabadis are in for a summer of discontent with both water and power in severe short supply.

A veritable Catch 22 situation. Short of pressing the panic button, the Hyderabad Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) is gearing up to rise to the challenge. But can it? Given the plummeting levels in major reservoirs that supply water to the State capital, the Water Board appears to be unequal to the task.

Daily struggle

Reports of acute water shortages are already pouring in from different parts of the city. Collecting a pail of water is becoming a daily struggle for many in the old city. The situation is pitiable in outlying areas like Malkajgiri, Uppal, Qutbullapur and Alwal which get supplies once in three to four days even in the best of times. People here are forced to depend on tankers which are also becoming difficult to obtain.

As summer advances, the pressure on tap water will only increase as the groundwater is getting depleted fast.

If figures are anything to go by, Himayatsagar will go completely dry after April 10 and Osmansagar by April 30. Together, these reservoirs are now supplying just 30 mgd against the normal supply of 40 mgd.

The position in Singur-Manjeera is not comfortable either. The present quantum of 120 mgd can be drawn from them till August provided the water is not released for irrigation purpose. There is a tremendous demand on the Water Board to provide 2.5 tmcft water to meet irrigation needs of farmers in Medak and Nizamabad districts.

That leaves us only with the Krishna Drinking Water Project.

The phase I and II of the project provides 180 mgd to the city. But here again emergency pumping would have to be resorted to if the level goes below + 508 ft. Authorities are getting ready for that too. Of course, the Water Board has drawn up contingency action plans for each and every reservoir but there is no way they can wish away the overall shortfall of 40 to 50 mgd in peak summer. The city now gets 340 mgd from all sources, which is 140 mgd short of the actual demand.

Just not dry, but miserable days are ahead for the denizens. The oldest water sources – Osmansagar and Himayatsagar – were designed for drawl of 25 mgd and 15 mgd through gravity transmission. But now both the sources have become totally unreliable with the inflows into them becoming negligible in recent years despite good monsoon in rest of the State.

The dwindling inflows in Singur and Manjira Barrage has created an alarming state of their dependability. During the summer of 2005, the Singur source became critical when it touched its lowest water level of less than 1 tmcft.

Rapid urbanisation

To meet the rising water demand in the Hyderabad urban agglomerate, the Krishna Phase I and II were commissioned in 2004-05 and 2005-07. But the rapid urbanisation and merger of surrounding municipalities into GHMC has made even this source augmentation insufficient.

The creation of Special Economic Zones, IT sectors and ORR growth corridors have only added to the water demand necessitating taking up of Krishna Phase III and Godavari Drinking Water Supply Project Phase I.

Right now there is a deficit of 140 mgd against the projected demand of 480 mgd. In 2014, the demand is expected to grow to 490.80 mgd and in 2017 touch 522.60 mgd. To meet the yawning gap between demand and supply, Krishna Phase III and Godavari project are considered the best bet. Time and again the Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy has announced completion of both these projects by 2013 end.

Officials, however, feel the target is very ambitious. They are confident of commissioning the projects by March next. Hopefully in time for the 2014 elections.

More In: Hyderabad