This summer, the capital city and its suburbs are in the grip of acute water shortage. In a multi-part series The Hindu<\i> examines the diverse ways the problem has impacted the people.

Water taps that can do little more than drip, wells that give no more water, water tanker operators who know that people would pay anything for that precious potful… summertime is often cruel to the residents of the capital city.

A tiny comfort was in knowing that there was adequate water at the Peppara dam. Such comfort may well be a thing of the past. At a time when Thiruvananthapuram is reeling under an acute drinking water shortage, the water level at the Peppara dam is being viewed with increasing concern by a section of officials at the Kerala Water Authority (KWA).

On April 19, the water level at the dam—which for now is the sole source of drinking water for the city—stood at 99.55 meters. According to KWA sources, including a former Assistant Executive Engineer who was in charge of the Peppara dam, the amount of water there may be only enough to be supplied in the city for a month or even less.

Traditionally, water level at Peppara goes down during the months of April and May. In 2007, for instance, the water level on the same date was 99.3 m.

In 2008 it was 103.2 m and in 2009, it was 99.75 m. The lowest reading recorded at Peppara was during May 2001, when the water level dipped to 93.2 m.

The ‘draw down' storage level—the level below which water cannot be let out from the dam—for Peppara is 86.5 m. The dam's crest level is 104.5 m. However, the situation in 2012 is different from that in the previous years. Before the JICA plant at Chithirakkunnu was commissioned, a 99.55 reading at Peppara would not have been viewed with such concern. Back then, water was let out from Peppara mainly for use by the 72 and 84 mld treatment plants at Aruvikkara and the 12 and 25 mld treatment plants at PTP Nagar.

Now, with the JICA plant working in full swing producing 72 million litres a day the rate at which water from Peppara is used daily has taken a sharp upswing. “At the current level, if there would have been enough water some years ago to feed the capital city for more than a month, now, it would be barely enough for a month,” the former Assistant Executive Engineer in charge of Peppara told The Hindu.

‘Enough water'

KWA Managing Director Ashok Singh, however, told The Hindu that there is enough water at Peppara for “close to two months” and that there was no cause for alarm. “Some days ago the water level even went down to 96 meters. It has now come back up by three meters. This is quite a lot of water.”