The city is facing an unprecedented drinking water crisis this year. If the depleting level in the T.G. Halli reservoir is one of the causes, a deeper malaise is a fundamental problem: at least 37 per cent of the water literally goes down the drain due to old, rusty pipes and poor distribution.

Compounding the problems are illegal connections and absence of official will to act against the skewed system and those who siphon off water without paying.

Last month's crisis

With each passing year, the demand for water goes up exponentially as the city's population explodes.

The crisis reached a peak two weeks ago when the canal at Handihalla siphon between Shiva Balancing Reservoir and Netkal Balancing Reservoir was breached. This cut off water supply to the city, leaving people parched for almost a week.

Immediately thereafter, frequent power problems in Tataguni and T.K. Halli reservoirs hit the supply. BWSSB officials said there is no alternative to dependence on power as high voltage is required to pump water to the city from the Cauvery, 100 km away. The drinking water pipeline network of 7,500 km criss-crossing the city carries 900 million litres of water per day (mld) to 6.10 lakh households.

This may sound impressive but behind the figures are disproportionate share and unreliable water supply. While some areas get enviable supply, others endure lack of water in their taps for no fathomable reason.

37 per cent loss

Officials reel out various reasons for the irrational distribution, which results in a loss in supply of 37 per cent (333 mld).

\They say the city faces a shortfall of 250 mld with the supply at 900 mld as against a demand of 1,150 mld. Effectively, this means that the city falls short of 583 mld.

Fifteen per cent goes waste because of pipe and joint leaks. Officials are at a loss to explain where the remaining 22 per cent vanishes.

If the Water Board is able to cut wastage, it will save 200 mld. This can cater to at least two lakh more households.

The Board draws 870 mld from the Cauvery (in three stages and first phase of 4{+t}{+h} stage) and 30 mld from the Thippagondanahalli reservoir. The level in this 74-foot reservoir, which gets water from the Arkavathy, has plummeted to 16 feet from 34.6 feet last year. If there are no rains, the Board plans to stop pumping from this source. The BWSSB has dug 7,272 bore wells to supplement the Cauvery supply.

Old pipelines

BWSSB Chairman P.B. Ramamurthy attributes the crisis to “technical glitches” and non-availability of adequate water. “Most of our pipelines were laid in the 1940s. Although we are replacing a few pipes every year, at least 1,500 km more need to be changed as they are old. Most of our distribution loss is because of these old lines,” he said.

Unaccounted water

“The 37 per cent water that goes unaccounted for per day translates into 333 mld of wastage. While 15 per cent to 20 per cent is the average distribution loss elsewhere in the country, we have to adopt a scientific method to ensure that the remaining water (nearly 200 mld) is not wasted. We can cater to nearly two lakh more household with this 200 mld,” Mr. Ramamurthy said.

Mr. Ramamurthy said the Board had set up 218 bulk flow meters across the city to monitor the flow of water in different areas and check the wastage. “In three months we will identify the areas getting surplus flow.”

Scarcity

That apart, 18 teams of officials are studying the scarcity. “They will examine whether the problems of low pressure in the ridge areas can be solved by opening the valves at a proper angle. They will also monitor whether the supply hours are strictly adhered to. With these measures, we hope to manage with the available water till 2012 when we can get 500 mld more from the Cauvery fourth stage's second phase,” Mr. Ramamurthy added.

Keywords: Water crisis

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