THOUGH THE current water storage levels in dams across Marathwada may not shown any significant improvement, last week’s rains have assuaged officials’ worries over an unprecedented drinking water crisis in the drought-hit region. Recharged wells and improved storage in local village water structures, including those built under the ambitious Jalyukt Shivar Yojana, have led to a decline in demand for water tankers in most talukas of the eight districts that comprise Marathwada.
“Percolation of water has led to a significant reduction in demand for water tankers,” said Prashant Narnaware, collector of Osmanabad district, which has received 372 mm of rain this year, only 48 per cent of its average. “Recharge wells and water storage structures built under Jalyukt Shivar are now full following good rains in the last three days. A four per cent increase in the level of Bori dam will help water supply to urban areas such as Tuljapur. The jackwell that supplies water to Kalamb town is full too,” he added.
Across the region, smaller structures brimming with water from last week’s rains will help supply water to the towns.
For example, in Osmanabad, the only urban centre still requiring tankers in the coming months is Paranda. A total of 569 tankers operate in the eight districts as of October 2, down from 895 tankers on September 21. Following the dry spell in July and August, the number of tankers had risen to nearly 1,300. Even on September 14, 1,249 tankers were doing the rounds in the region.
Water storage in the region’s dams has improved too, though the overall levels remain poor. As of Tuesday, storage in Marathwada’s 11 large dams was 16 per cent, well below last year’s 49 per cent, but not as alarming as the mid-September levels. By the end of August, the 833 small, medium and large dams in Marathwada together had just 7.8 per cent storage, compared to 22.76 per cent recorded at the end of August, 2014.
With its 5-lakh strong population, providing water to Latur city has been the biggest challenge for government officials in Marathwada, a crisis exacerbated by the fact that the dam across river Manjara has run completely dry. A minor 4-5 mm average rainfall over the past week recorded at the Manjara dam site has somewhat eased the burden.
Deputy Resident Collector Vishwambar Gawande says the improvement may be marginal, but they hope that the recent rains will postpone the worst of the crisis until January next year. “It’s not a sizeable improvement in storage levels, but we hope to make it last for four to five months, along with water in other minor projects. For rural areas, even where borewells have dried up, we hope other water sources will be available locally owing to the recent rains,” Gawande said.
The proposal for supplying water to Latur via railway wagons has not been discarded, but with a little time available now, officials are considering laying a new 45-km pipeline from Latur to Shiradon, where it could join an existing pipeline from Ujjani dam.
According to Met department data, rainfall from June 1 to September 30 in Marathwada was deficient by 40 per cent, averaging 412.4 mm against the normal of 682.9. In comparison, Vidarbha experienced an 11 per cent deficit monsoon in June-September. In 2014, monsoon in Marathwada between June 1 and September 30 was 398.8 mm, a 42 per cent deficiency. In the first four days of October, the arid Marathwada region has witnessed rains and thundershowers. The average, however, still remains below the normal at 13.9 mm. The normal is 15.4 mm.