States advised to give preference to drinking water and irrigation and enhance groundwater use.

An alarming depletion in the water levels (at 57 per cent of last year’s storage) of important reservoirs, owing to the delayed and weak southwest monsoon, has prompted the Central government to issue an advisory to the States on Monday to make “judicious and regulated” releases.

The States have been advised to give preference to drinking water and irrigation and enhance groundwater use to meet current needs.

Top officials said there was a serious concern over the spread and intensity of rain and apprehension that the monsoon might remain weak in parts of the country. Already, there are reports of damage to the kharif crop in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. A letter from Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh to the Chief Secretaries urges the States to go in for crops that require less water.

Anxiety is building up as all major reservoirs, barring those in central India, are showing deficient storage. Against the live storage capacity of 154.421 billion cubic metres (BCM), the average storage till July 5 was only 25.191 BCM in the 84 major reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission.

The current year’s storage is nearly 57 per cent of last year’s storage. It was 62 per cent in the previous week.

The worst-hit basins are the Godavari, Krishna, Indus, Cauvery and the west flowing rivers of the south. The Kutch rivers are ‘highly deficient,’ say official sources.

The storage in the Thein, Bhakra and Pong dams in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh is lower by 37 to 45 per cent than normal. Despite rain in the eastern region, 15 reservoirs in Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal are filled only up to 40 per cent or below. The storage in Maharashtra is lower by 39 per cent and in Uttar Pradesh, by 26 per cent of the normal on an average. The 30 reservoirs in the south have storage levels that are lower by 4 to 59 per cent than the normal. Dams in Karnataka have a departure from the normal storage of 59 per cent, Kerala of 45 per cent, Andhra Pradesh of 18 per cent and Tamil Nadu of four per cent.

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