The Telangana State, where groundwater availability has always been a challenge, has not seen a worse situation in terms of water levels as early as March, during the past one decade. If Hyderabad is excluded, for which data is available only since 2005, the average groundwater level of the State in March has plummeted to a 17-year low this year.
Officials from the Telangana Groundwater Department describe the drought as singularly unusual with special reference to groundwater situation.
“Though we have seen droughts earlier, this one is totally different. Earlier, the bore-wells in tank command areas and project command areas would survive the drought. This time, even they have gone dry. The water levels normal for the month of May were seen in December-January this time,” says Director, Groundwater Department, G.Sambaiah.
Over 140 mandals in the State are severely stressed, with water levels plunging to more than 20 metres below ground level (mbgl) for the past six or seven months, while 90 more are in critical condition, with water availability at 15 to 20 mbgl.
The average depth to groundwater in the State was recorded at 10.42 mbgl in March,1999, while the same stood at 15.26 mbgl in March this year, in exclusion of the capital city.
When the figures of the past decade for all the 10 districts including Hyderabad are compared, State average in March, at 14.88 mbgl, is the highest and the worst. Notably, it is higher than the 13.27 mbgl average availability in May last year. Compared with the figures six months before, the levels have fallen by 3.14 metres.
The predicament of Medak district is cause for much concern, considering the steady drop from 18.39 mbgl to 24.34 mbgl since last March. Nizamabad, Ranga Reddy and Mahabubnagar districts too have recorded a steep fall during the year past.
Five mandals of the Adilabad district which share their geological features with Latur in Maharashtra, could be facing acute groundwater crisis owing to the type of soil and terrain which cannot hold water.
Two of the five, Boath and Kerameri, share borders with Maharashtra, and are only geological extension of the Latur region, while the other mandals suffering the groundwater crisis are Indravelli, Jainur and Gudihathnur located centrally, another official from the department shared.
Latur in Maharashtra has been in the news recently for receiving its drinking water from Miraj, in specially made railway tankers.
“Black cotton soils underlined by basalt terrains mark the geology of this region referred to as Deccan Traps. Water is available only at shallow depths in other seasons, but in summer, it plummets to inaccessible depths,” said an official from the department.
The mandals got mention in a meeting at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) during discussion about regions facing water stress in Bundelkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra apart from Telangana. Expert teams from NGRI are to conduct a study in these regions, informed officials.