Salinity level was 350 ppm at Aluva pumping station

Restoration of normal water supply in many city areas and the coastal belt in Ernakulam will take at least a week following the frequent shutdown of operations at the pumping station of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) in Aluva triggered by salinity intrusion into the Periyar River.

The increase in salinity levels on Sunday morning forced the KWA to stop pumping from Aluva by 4.15 a.m. but it was restored by around 7.15 a.m. The salinity level was 350 ppm (parts per million) when pumping was called off at 4.15 a.m.

Senior officials of the distribution wing of the KWA told The Hindu that restoration of full water supply will take a minimum of one week and may get extended to two weeks in view of the fluctuating salinity levels in the river. Water supply continues to be hit severely in areas that include Cheranallur, Kadamakudi, Chellanam, Fort Kochi, Vennala, Padamugal and Edappally.

The official admitted that there was a 40 per cent fall in the normal level of drinking water supplied from the Aluva station especially in view of the salinity levels and shortage of rains in the region. They also referred to the huge storage facilities set up at many houses and flats in the city for the delay in restoring normal water supply in the city and nearby areas.

An official in the distribution wing of the KWA pointed out that the storage capacity of many of the sumps was between 25,000 and 50,000 litres. Asked why the authority was not taking action against such consumers, the officials pointed out that the existing rules lacked teeth and hence they were not in a position to initiate legal action.

Officials said that it will take an estimated half-an-hour for water to reach Kochi city once pumping starts at Aluva. But the pace of the water supply will come down drastically, as filling up the huge sumps in residential apartments consumes lot of time. Such consumers will not face any scarcity for three to four days even if pumping remains suspended for several hours a day, they said.

At a meeting chaired by the Minister for Water Resources P. J. Joseph on Sunday, the Water Resources department has been ordered to complete the bund at Purapallikavu by December 6.

With more water being released from Bhoothathankettu in Kothamangalam, KWA officials believe that the situation could be better on Monday morning during high tide. It is during high tide when the saline intrusion occurs the intake of water is affected, said a senior KWA official. A review meeting will be held on Thursday, he said.

The panchayats of Kadungalloor, Karimallur and Alangad have also been badly affected since the treatment plant at Mupathadam with a capacity of 10 mld has been shutdown since Saturday 10 a.m. As the chloride levels continue to be at over 500 ppm, there has been no intake into the treatment plant there.

The work on Pathalam bund is likely to be completed by Monday and that is likely to lower the water salinity to permissible levels at the water intake at Mupathadam, said a KWA official.

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