The Mettur dam has been receiving heavy inflow for the past few days, thanks to the increased discharge from the Karnataka dams because of the copious rain in the catchment areas. The water level in the dam has risen by more than 15 feet in the last three days. The improved water position in the dam has come as a relief to farmers and the general public in the delta region. The officials had stepped up the discharge of water to over 1,000 cusecs to meet the drinking water requirements.

Pudukottai town is the worst hit in the central region with water crisis looming large for the past few months. The State government in 1994 implemented the Cauvery comprehensive drinking water supply scheme to provide clean drinking water to Pudukottai district and inadequate supply of water under this scheme is the main cause for the present crisis.

Various parts of Tiruchi have been facing severe drinking water scarcity for the last couple of months. The situation worsened with the monsoon doing the disappearing act and both the Cauvery and the Coleroon rivers going dry. The Tiruchirapalli City Corporation was forced to resort to alternate day’s water supply.

The corporation has set up 2,000 litres capacity PVC tanks temporarily at more than 150 points to supply protected drinking water, besides pressing more than 20 water tankers into service to distribute water in the worst-hit areas. The corporation has earmarked Rs.3.41 crore under the drought relief scheme for the purpose.

The corporation is burdened with the responsibility of supplying drinking water to the newly added five wards (ward nos. 61 to 65) – which were earlier part of Tiruverumbur town panchayat and Pappakurichi, Ellakkudi, Keezhakalkandarkottai, and Alathur village panchayats. Special initiatives had been taken for the supply of water in Ponmalai, Ariyamangalam, and Abishekapuram zones.

Councillors, cutting across party lines, at the council meeting held last week, raised the issue of fall in quality and quantity of water supplied by the corporation. Pipelines should be either re-laid or maintained, they said. They pleaded for the continuation of all these initiatives till water table improved.

The supply of poor quality water had been a matter of serious concern for the people. Many residents had switched over to packaged water for cooking and drinking purpose. “The discoloured water is creating panic among consumers,” say L. Shyam Sundara Gupta, a resident of Mela Uthira Street in Srirangam and Lourdu Mary, a resident of Sangiliandapuram. Severe drought had caused depletion in water table, with many borewells going dry. Many residents say they have not witnessed such a serious situation even during the drought-hit days of 2002. More than the initiatives of the corporation, it is the private drinking water tanker operators who come to the rescue of Tiruchiites. It is common to see 100s of water tankers criss-crossing the city. They are sought after by house owners in old residential areas, hotel owners, besides hospitals. Even those living houses which had wells also depend on water tankers.

Encouraged by the steady demand, water suppliers have increased the price by at least by Rs.100 to Rs.150 per load. Even though the consumers are willing to shell out extra money, they do not get water on time. Expenditure on water has begun to significantly eat into their monthly budgets. “We have to pay Rs. 400 for 4,000 litres of water, compared to Rs. 300 till a few months ago,” says Kumudha, a home maker of Ponnagar. The tanker owners justify the increase in rates by citing rise in fuel price. Also, the toll per tanker has been doubled from Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 at the source. It is the 2,000 litre water tankers which are in good demand among the domestic consumers, says S.A. Kathiresan, proprietor of Tirumalai Water Service.

The citizens want the corporation to continue efforts to solve the drinking water crisis till the situation becomes normal. “The supply of drinking water through temporary tanks and water tankers should be continued till the end of July. If need arises, the corporation should take steps to get additional tankers from the neighbouring local bodies or hire private tankers to ensure adequate supply of water,” says M. Shanthi, a housewife at Jayanagar in Karumandapam.

A cross-section of residents in Srirangam are surprised over the sudden depletion in the water table or total drying of the open wells.