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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Explained: Reservoir levels — a little more water than usual but not everywhere

Storage in the country’s reservoirs is just over what is normal for this time of the year. But those in Western and Southern Regions are way short of those levels.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Pune | Updated: June 17, 2019 4:24:09 pm
reservoirs, drought, drought in india, marathawada drought, maharashtra drought, gujarat drought, karnataka drought, monsoon, southwest monsoon, water shortage, india water shortage  Bhakra and Pong reservoirs are in a ‘critical position’ (Representational Image)

The overall storage position in the 91 major reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission (CWC) across the country this week is better than the situation in the corresponding week of last year, as well as the corresponding average storage of the last 10 years, the CWC has said in its latest report, published on June 13.

However, this situation is not uniform across the country. Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka are facing drought conditions and an acute water shortage, and reservoir levels in all states of the Southern and Western Regions are significantly lower than the 10-year average — known as the “normal” level.

The southwest monsoon hit Kerala on June 8, a week behind the June 1 schedule. The timing of the onset does not have a bearing on the quality or amount of rainfall over the June-September monsoon season. A delayed onset over Kerala also does not mean that the monsoon would be delayed elsewhere in the country.

The CWC, which is an attached office with the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, is the country’s premier technical organisation in water resources. It issues detailed bulletins on reservoir levels and storage every Thursday. The reservoirs, which store water for irrigation, drinking, and generation of hydro power, are a key component of regional and the national economies. Reservoir levels are low before the arrival of the monsoon, and they gradually fill up as the season progresses.

As of June 13, the major reservoirs together held 29.189 billion cubic metres of water, which was 18% of these reservoirs’ combined storage capacity. This is slightly better than the situation in the same week last year, when reservoirs had storage of 28.013 BCM. The normal storage at this time is expected to be 28.972 BCM.

Read | How severe is the water crisis in Maharashtra? What measures has the government taken?

The situation in the reservoirs of the Western and Southern Regions, however, reveals why these areas are going through an acute water shortage. The 27 major reservoirs in the Western Region, essentially in Gujarat and Maharashtra, are together holding just 10% of their combined storage capacity, well below their normal levels of 17% for this time of the year. The 31 reservoirs in the five southern states are filled to only 11% of their combined capacity as against a normal level of 15% at this time of the year.

The situation is particularly critical in Maharashtra, where the total water in reservoirs is 68% below normal, and in Andhra Pradesh, where reservoirs are at 84% below normal storage.


Reservoirs in the Northern Region (Himachal Pradesh, Punjab), Eastern Region (West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura), and in Madhya Pradesh were in healthy condition.

There has been very little rain this year, with the pre-monsoon season of March to May witnessing 25% below normal rainfall. In the last one year since July, there has been just one month, February this year, that has witnessed normal rainfall. All other months have been deficient.

Read | Karnataka: Nearly 9 in 10 talukas hit by drought, 2/3rds of irrigation tanks run dry

The storage in the reservoirs, however, depends not only on the total amount of rainfall, but also on where the rainfall happens. The catchment areas, from which water drains into the reservoirs, need to receive good rainfall for the reservoir levels to rise.

Read | Gujarat – Little rain, just one key river

  • This year’s live storage as of June 13. Last year’s figures and 10-year averages are for the corresponding weeks in earlier years.
  • Figures in parentheses are the numbers of reservoirs monitored by CWC in each region.
  • Checks and crosses compare this year’s status with last year’s and the average status of 10 years. The checks denote fuller reservoirs and the crosses, emptier in comparison to last year’s level or the average level over the last 10 years.

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