The Cauvery Monitoring Committee at its meeting on Thursday said it would “not be appropriate” to decide that Karnataka should release more waters from its dams to Tamil Nadu, considering that the upper riparian State will have only 16 tmcft available in its reservoirs for drinking purposes till May 2013.

“Water for drinking is a priority over water for irrigation. Both States must conserve water in their dams for drinking purposes,’’ the panel said in its order.

Noting that as per the interim award of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) that provides for pro rata sharing of distress, Tamil Nadu should receive 1.51 tmcft during January, the panel said that even if no water was released from the reservoirs of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu continued to receive water from the “intermediate catchments” between Karnataka dams and the Mettur reservoir in Tamil Nadu.

“During January 1 to 9, Mettur received 1.6 tmcft without any release of water from the reservoirs of Karnataka,” It said.

The panel noted that Karnataka would have 16 tmcft in its reservoirs for drinking water till May, 2013. Tamil Nadu said Karnataka needed to make good the 31.4-tmcft shortage in receipts by it.

The panel, however, noted that the central team that had visited Karnataka in October 2012 had assessed that the State had a 23 tmcft requirement of drinking water from October 2012 up to May 31, 2013. “This was based on the data given by the Karnataka government. The interim award itself is silent on the issue of drinking water requirements of Karnataka. It is difficult to make an assessment of drinking water requirements. The CMC would have no choice but to go with the estimates given by the government of Karnataka,” the CMC order said.

“Taking into account any leakage and evaporation, the 16 tmcft available in the Karnataka reservoirs would be sufficient for drinking purposes for the remaining period till May 31, 2013. It would not be appropriate to decide that Karnataka should release more water to Tamil Nadu, considering the circumstances, beyond the 1.51 tmcft, it is to give as per the award for January, 2013,” the order said.

CMC chairman and Union Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh informed the panel that the issue of notification of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was “under active consideration” of the Centre and a decision was expected “shortly.”

He was responding to the demand of the Cauvery basin States of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala for early notification of the award. Karnataka representative, however, said he would receive orders from his government and get back to the CMC in the next two days.

The meeting was attended by Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishnan, her Karnataka counterpart S.V. Ranganath and senior officials of Kerala and Puducherry.