OVER 4,000 new wells are to be sunk to cope with the looming water crisis in the drought-hit Marathwada region of central Maharashtra, with each of the eight districts drawing up plans for around 600 wells each. While the overall rain deficit for the region stands at 19 per cent, the district administration in Beed, Latur, Parbhani and Osmanabad, with deficits ranging from 20 per cent to 33 per cent, are anticipating an acute scarcity of water from December onwards.
Survey work for the new wells, to be undertaken through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, has already begun at several locations, including in the submergence area of small reservoirs. While 2,265 water tankers are currently operational across the state, over half of these are in Marathwada, and the new wells are expected to be important water sources for drinking water tankers in 2020.
In Osmanabad, where seven of eight talukas have recorded less than 400 mm average rainfall until Monday, officials said work has begun on 100 wells. “Water conservation works were undertaken earlier, but these can be useful only if it rains. The rain has been insufficient, and we are hoping that the retreating monsoon brings good rain,” said Osmanabad district collector Deepa Mudhol-Munde. Identification of sources for water tankers has been done already, she added.
In Latur, where a water train named the Jaldhoot Express made 111 trips in 2016, the overall rain deficit is currently 25 per cent. The main source of drinking water for Latur will be Dhanegaon dam on the Manjara river, along with water tankers that have continued to operate through the monsoon. While 71 tankers were operational in Latur district last week, on Monday the number was 55, said officials.
“Water in the reservoirs has already been reserved completely for drinking purposes and private irrigation wells have been requisitioned,” said Anant Gavhane, resident deputy collector of Latur. He said there is no crisis currently, but the administration is preparing for an acute water scarcity from January 2020 onwards.
Across Marathwada’s eight districts, 1,258 water tankers are currently operational, serving 1,000 villages and 144 hamlets. The maximum numbers are in Aurangabad and Beed districts, where 971 and 749 tankers are currently operational. At the same time in 2018, only 155 tankers were operational in Marathwada.
Water storage in the 964 small, medium and major reservoirs in Marathwada is currently at a total of 36.53 per cent. This is largely on account of the Jayakwadi dam being 97 per cent full due to overflow of water from Nashik – at least seven other major dam reservoirs continue to be at dead storage.
Incidentally, a pre-monsoon survey this summer by the state’s Groundwater Survey and Development Agency found Marathwada to be witnessing the most alarming depletion in groundwater levels. Of 76 talukas in Marathwada’s eight districts, 72 saw serious depletion.
More than half the total number of villages where groundwater levels are more than 3 metres lower than the five-year average are in Marathwada, raising questions on over-exploitation of this resource. While 1,467 villages saw a dip of over 3 metres, another 1,333 villages here recorded groundwater depletion by between 2 and 3 metres from the five-year average. In total, more than 5,000 villages in the region recorded a dip of more than one metre from the five-year average.
In October 2018, a post-monsoon survey by the GSDA showed that nearly 71 per cent of the state was experiencing a dip in groundwater levels by more than one metre as compared to a five year average.