With temperatures soaring across a parched and drought-hit countryside, and monsoon rains still approximately two months away, the storage level is the country’s largest water reservoirs has already dipped to alarming levels – it has now fallen to below one-fourth the total capacity.
The 91 large reservoirs currently hold only about 35.8 billion cubic metres (bcm) of water, that is, about 23 per cent of their total live capacity of 157.799 bcm. Of course, at this time of the year, reservoirs are not supposed to be filled to capacity. However, the current storage levels are significantly below the normal storage range expected during this period.
The storage level at the moment is one-third lower than the storage level at the corresponding time last year, and about one-fourth lower than the average storage of the last ten years.
The waters in these reservoirs are used not just for hydropower generation and irrigation but for drinking water purposes as well. Not surprisingly, the reservoirs in the western and southern region hold the least amount of water as a proportion their capacity.
The 27 reservoirs in the western region are currently filled to just 18 per cent of their capacity while the 31 reservoirs in the south have just 15 per cent water. With the country getting little winter rain this season, the water level in these reservoirs has progressively declined.
These reservoirs together had 69.6 bcm of water in the first week of January, filling up 44 per cent of their capacity. But over the last three months this has fallen to their current levels of 23 per cent. However, the picture has a silver lining.
With no major agricultural crop currently under cultivation, the demand for irrigation water is likely to remain stable until the beginning of the sowing for the kharif crop in early June. If the predictions of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) hold true, the country should start getting rains by that time.