Yet again, taps dry up as summer heat escalates, and BWSSB expects this year’s crisis to be unprecedented for a variety of reasons.
The first shock of summer hit last fortnight when the water level at Shiva Balancing Reservoir (SBR), from where water is supplied to the city, fell two-and-a-half feet below the minimum level.
Summer is upon us, and as usual, the spectre of water shortage looms. The problem, in fact, began in February, earlier than usual.
Officials from Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), who, last fortnight, said that the drinking water situation could be alarming this year, wrote to the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Ltd. to enhance the release of water from the Kabini and the KRS dams to a minimum of 600 cusecs at Shiva Balancing Reservoir. They also got power production stopped at four mini hydel plants to divert 50 cusecs (122.32 million litres per day) of water to Bangalore.
Although the water levels continue to be low despite these measures, officials said that the situation is “manageable” till May after which they hope rain will bring some respite.
Although water shortage is routine every summer, officials expect this year’s crisis to be unprecedented. They attributed the fall in water level to the release of 2.4 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water to Tamil Nadu following the Supreme Court’s directions.
The city’s daily supply of 900 mld (million litres of water per day) together from Thorekadanahalli (T.K. Halli) and Thippagondanahalli (T.G. Halli), reduced to 870 mld in November last when pumping from T.G. Halli reservoir was stopped when it dried up completely.
However, the commissioning of the Cauvery IV Stage Phase II around the same time came as a breather. The board has been drawing 225 mld from this source, taking the total daily supply to 1,125 mld.
The drinking water pipeline network of 7,500 km carries this 1,125 mld to 7.22 lakh households. However, improper distribution has resulted in inequitable supply. While some areas get an enviable supply, others are perennially parched.
According to BWSSB Engineer-in-Chief T. Venkataraju, although the city needs 1,250 mld, only 1,125 mld of water is available. The demand rises to 1,450 mld in summer.
“We have the facility now to draw an additional 500 mld through the Cauvery IV Stage Phase II project. But, we are drawing only 225 mld as most residents are not keen on taking metered connections in the new areas. This is because they are happy to get free water from borewells. Of the targeted two lakh new consumers under the scheme commissioned recently, only 40,000 have obtained metered connections,” he said.
Meanwhile, an estimated 32 per cent of the 1,125 mld of Cauvery water that gets pumped into the city from a distance of about 100 km at a cost of nearly Rs. 330 crore a year is either wasted as a result of leaks, or stolen through unauthorised connections, or not metered because of old and rusty pipes and faulty meters.
The board has now taken up a pilot project in South Bangalore to address this. The project, funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is aimed at fixing faulty meters in an area of 52 sq km in six constituencies.
“We have divided the area into District Metered Areas (DMA) based on water pressure. A single DMA has 1,000-3,000 connections and we have recorded the water wastage in nearly 5,000 connections to be 32 per cent. We are aiming to bring this down to 16 per cent. We will soon extend this project to west and north Bangalore,” he said.
The official said that while 15 per cent is wasted because of pipe and joint leaks and corroded house service connections, the rest is lost because of leakages in ground-level reservoirs and malfunctioning meters. “If we can reduce the wastage, we will save at least 250 mld. This can cater to nearly two lakh extra households,” he said.