The hill station might have attracted a record number of visitors this year. But the summer is harsher this time in the town as an acute drinking water problem has left the residents in many areas at the mercy of private water suppliers and a few streams in low-lying areas, which too have only a poor flow.
Cashing in on the situation, private water suppliers sell a tanker load of water — 3,000 to 4,000 litres — at Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000.
Three months back, the cost of one tanker load was Rs.900, said a member of the Hotel Owners’ Association. The sharp rise in the number of tourists arriving here had worsened the situation, he added.
All private suppliers have been drawing water from a borewell close to a private resort near Kodaikanal lake. The sale of packaged water too has increased manifold, and empty water bottles account for 85 per cent of the one-tonne plastic waste collected daily at Bryant Park.
Water was supplied once in 16 days by the local body, the residents said, and added that women had to walk a long distance in the forests to collect water from the streams as the supply was not enough.
The storage level in Observatory Reservoir, the main drinking water source to the town, has already gone below three feet. The Manoranjitham reservoir, just one and a half km away from the old reservoir, has just one foot of water.
The municipality is supplying drinking water to 82 per cent of the total population. It has sunk six borewells near the lake, but three of them are dry and the yield is low in the others.
Groundwater too has gone down to 300 feet in Vattakanal, which is just four km away from the lake. With the failure of monsoon this year, streams and minor falls are either dry or have a very thin flow.
When contacted, Kodaikanal Township Engineer Shahul Hamid said most of the residents rely on municipal water supply, so the demand was high. The storage level in the main reservoir was sufficient to maintain the supply only for a week.
Earlier, 24 lakh litres of water was lifted from the reservoir and 10 lakh litres from other sources every day. Now not even seven lakh litres of water could be drawn from the reservoir. Only good rain could improve the situation, he added.
As a long-term plan, the municipality had sent a proposal to the government to implement the Lower Gundar Water scheme to make use of the outflow from Berijam Lake and Gundar falls at an estimated cost of Rs.43 crore, he added. However, sources said implementation of the project would not be easy as there was stiff opposition to the project from the local people.