When every drop counts

When every drop counts

Water level in KRS has hit rock bottom. Bangaloreans must rationalise water use now, or brace for an unprecedented rationing of the precious commodity. Rainwater harvesting is a long-term solution that citizens must consider seriously

The Krishnarajasagar (KRS), the main reservoir from where Cauvery water is supplied to Bangalore City, has just around 10 tmc ft (1000 million cubic feet) of water, which Bangaloreans will have to spend judiciously till the onset of monsoon. The summer ahead may result in excessive consumption, which means the stock may exhaust much earlier than expected. But, despite the alarming reservoir levels, the government is only calming the citizens saying there is no need to worry. 

The government seems to be well aware of the water crisis, but with elections just months away, the ministers do not wish to take any chances that would affect their career. Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who called for rationing of water, contradicted his statement the following day stating that enough water will be supplied to Bangalore City. A country, which largely depends on monsoon rains for most of the agriculture and drinking water needs, may have to only pray to the rain god and hope that monsoon does not fail like last year.

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) draws nearly 1,400 million litres per day (MLD) of water from the Cauvery basin for supplying it to different parts of the City. By the same calculation, there is a need for 1.5 tmc ft per month and nearly 7.5 tmc ft of water till the end of May. By commissioning the Cauvery IV stage II phase, the Board has also exhausted the last and final drawal from the Cauvery basin. With no alternative, BWSSB has asked citizens to use water judiciously.

BWSSB chairperson Gaurav Gupta has said Bangaloreans are already used to a rationing system of water distribution. Rationing basically means controlled distribution of scarce resources, but BWSSB does not seem to follow the system. Consider the number of hours of water supply to each area. For instance, many localities, mainly the VIP areas, are supplied water for over 22 hours, while many other areas receive water only once a week for a few hours. BWSSB had also promised to stabilise water supply in core areas after the commissioning of the Cauvery IV Stage II phase. But many such areas are still deprived of sufficient water supply.

38% of water goes waste

Beyond just supplying water, BWSSB should also make efforts to curb massive leakages, says M N Thippeswamy, retired chief engineer, BWSSB. “BWSSB has only concentrated on bringing additional water to the City and has failed miserably in controlling leakages within the City. The Board has done nothing to plug the UFW (unaccounted-for water), a large percentage of which is still going down the drain,” he added.

According to BWSSB records, nearly 38 per cent of the total water pumped to Bangalore City goes waste as the existing waterlines in the City have worn out over the years. Although the Board has taken up the work of replacement of the old, corroded pipelines, the work is being carried out at a slow pace. Thippeswamy compares BWSSB with a large bucket with lot of holes. He says, “No matter how much water you fill in the bucket, it keeps draining out.”

He says that just campaigning about water conservation is not enough, as there is a need to awaken the conscience of every Bangalorean about the growing crisis of drinking water. “It is not just the laypeople in the City, but many officers in the administration, including IAS officers, are unaware of how Bangalore receives water from Cauvery. It is a herculean task to draw water from a distance of 100 km and pump it up to 1,000 ft, but no one is aware of it,” he added.

The disparity in distribution of Cauvery water has allowed residents of many areas to use and waste precious drinking water for all non-potable purposes. Even after learning about the water crisis, there are still many houses allowing their maids and workers to wash cars using the hose pipe for hours together. A BWSSB official recalled how a BBMP corporator’s driver was washing the car tyres with water from a hose pipe. On questioning him, he said his owner had the capacity to pay the water bill, and the official had no authority to question water wastage. 

Unlike Bangalore, in Singapore and in some Western countries, the government imposes a fine on those who waste water. Gaurav Gupta says that as per the rules, the Board does not have the authority to question water wastage. “We can only create awareness about the importance of water conservation and methods that could be adopted. We still do not have any rules to penalise those who waste water. We are only hoping to increase the water tariff, which has been a long-pending demand from the Board employees,” he added.

Bangalore City is allowed to grow in all dimensions without a proper study on the availability of water resources to meet the huge domestic demand of the present and future population says, K C Subhash Chandra, Expert Groundwater Member, Karnataka Groundwater Authority.

“We only think of the current requirement and lack adequate planning for the future. The population of Bangalore is expected to cross one crore by 2015 and people have already started to panic about the dwindling groundwater resources and the level in the KRS having reached the lowest level even before summer begins. It is high time the government agencies look beyond surface and groundwater,” he added.
Subhash Chandra says groundwater can never be a sustainable resource for Bangalore.

Recent studies have proved that the groundwater quality has also deteriorated. In general, rock formations of Bangalore carry no potential fractures beyond a depth of 300 metres. But in many peripheral parts, there have been many instances where borewells are drilled beyond 300 metres with no water tapped. With this type of extraction and mining of groundwater seen in the past few years, there is every possibility that there may be no static water resource left in the aquifer, he added. 

In terms of citizens’ responsibility, adequate measures have not been taken by a majority of the house owners in the City in tapping rainwater by installing rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. Even government agencies have not initiated appropriate measures to protect and conserve the potential overland run-off rainwater. This precious resource available from rainfall is being drained into the stormwater drains.

The rule on conserving rainwater should have been imposed long back when there was an indication of monsoon deficit. The only immediate measure that the authorities can now look into is to protect, purify and make lake water available for domestic needs, he said.

N Mukund, Joint Secretary, Citizens’ Action Forum, says that BWSSB, along with other government agencies, needs to educate citizens of Bangalore about the growing water crisis and how important it is to conserve water. “BWSSB has to first present the facts before the citizens, instead of claiming that there is no water crisis. They also need to conduct aggressive campaigns and hold interactive sessions with the public,” he said.

Status report

* Bangalore needs 1,400 million litres of water (600 cusecs) per day
* The requirement is 1.5 tmc ft (thousand million cubic feet) per month
* For the next five months, 7.5 tmc ft of water is required
* At present, the Krishnarajasagar (KRS) reservoir has around 10 tmc ft of water
* Kabini reservoir has around 6 tmc ft

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