With good flow of tourists, Kodaikanal is facing acute water crisis this summer owing to rapid depletion of storage in old and new reservoirs near the observatory and low yield in bore wells near the lake, the main drinking water sources for the hill station.
Many streams on the upper and lower Kodaikanal hills are completely dry and the old reservoir has three feet of water.
At present, residents in the town get water once in 23 days.
The Kodaikanal Municipality supplied water to residents on April 2 and the next supply was made on April 23.
“We do not know when the next turn is,” says A. Bastin, a resident.
Earlier, it had supplied water to 12 wards with available storage in the reservoir and to rest of the 18 wards with water from bore wells. With water level touching dead storage in the old reservoir, bore wells are the only source for the municipality. Of the 10 bore wells, a few have good yield while others have less than 40% of the original yield.
Good flow of tourists during holidays and weekends too has catapulted water requirement of hotels and restaurants substantially, say hotel owners.
With no alternative sources, the hotels have started buying water from Batlagundu in tanker lorries shelling out ₹9,000 per tanker.
Hotels ration out water to their customers restricting supply to twice a day to rooms.
Demand for water had increased manifold in the last few decades owing to rapid increase in population and a quantum jump in arrival of tourists to Kodaikanal.
“To augment water supply, the State government had sanctioned ₹42 crore for implementation of lower Gundar project long back. But it remains stalled,” say municipality sources.
But environmentalists argue that monsoon failure is not the only reason for water shortage.
Large-scale destruction of marshy grasslands and proliferation of mono crops have severely damaged the ecosystem.
Sharp increase in water consumption is the other reason, they add.
Removal of acacia trees and other foreign species in 50 metres around the old and new reservoirs and restoration of three marshy lands – two near Manoranjidam reservoir and one between old and new reservoirs – will solve water crisis because these species consume more water, says Michael, who belongs to an NGO in Kodaikanal.
Creation of Shola forests and grasslands near reservoirs will certainly change the situation, environmentalists suggest.