As Chennai’s temperature hovered around 40 degrees Celsius in the last few days, the residents were grimly reminded about the excruciating summer of 2019, when the city suffered severe water scarcity. From highly regulated and periodic supply to bringing water from Jolarpettai and even Kerala offering to step in and help, the state government had a tough time dealing with the need for water. However, a cursory glance at the data of water storage around Chennai on Wednesday offered relief in terms of water availability as the peak of summer approaches the city.
As per the data in the website of the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), the combined water level in the four lakes that supply water to the city -- Poondi, Chembarambakkam, Red Hills and Sholavaram -- stands at 5.402 tmcft, which is almost 48% of the total storage. This is much higher than what the four lakes had on this day last year at 0.135 tmcft.
Chennai and the whole of Tamil Nadu suffered through a difficult summer in 2019 due to monsoon failure the previous year. The water shortage was so acute in Chennai that the government of Tamil Nadu had to arrange to bring water from Jolarpettai, around 220 kilometres away from Chennai, in wagons. In order to ensure efficient use of a scarce resource, CMWSSB had also reduced the quantity of water supplied to the city to 525 million litres per day (MLD) as against the normal supply of around 800 MLD.
The supply was increased to 650 MLD in October 2019. And the city’s water situation has improved since, as of Wednesday, the water authority is supplying 700 million litres a day.
Veeranam Lake in Cuddalore district is one of the most important sources of water for Chennai city. The CMWSSB draws 180 MLD of water from the lake to be supplied to the residents.
The water level at Veeranam Lake, which draws water from Cauvery river via Mettur dam stood at 1.287 tmcft on May 18 as against the 0.759 tmcft last year. The water level in Mettur dam is around 100 feet as against the full reservoir level of 120 feet, as of Wednesday.
The state government, meanwhile, has announced that the shutters of the dam will be opened on June 12 to aid in the Kuruvai cultivation season in Cauvery delta districts.
“The decision to open Mettur in June will bode well for us because Veeranam will get filled up again,” a senior official from the CMWSSB said.
For residents, the summer ahead will be a comfortable one, added the CMWSSB officer. “We are in a way better situation this year when compared with last year. Hence I don’t think there is any need to worry about water shortage till next summer.”
Bala Pratip Raj, a 30-year-old city-based marketing professional, hopes that this year the water supply shouldn’t get affected since due to the lockdown, there is lesser demand from the commercial and industrial sector, which leaves domestic users with more water.
While the water levels seem to indicate adequate water supply, the temperatures in Chennai are rising every day. However, since the Kathiri veyil period (a period of higher than normal summer temperatures) is on, it is normal to observe high temperatures in the day.