As the mercury levels are constantly hitting the roof in Chennai, the city is staring at a possible scenario of severe water shortage in the coming days. In fact, many parts of the city are already coming to terms with the stunted supply of water from the Chennai Metrowater Board.
Nithya, a resident of Velachery, tells TNM that the people living in her locality have been facing water issues since the beginning of March. "Earlier the supply used to be erratic. But gradually water stopped coming and we had to depend on water tankers. Nowadays, the situation is so grim that it takes one week for the CMWSSB to send water tanker to our locality after booking," she says. She adds that the situation in the coming days could be worse, especially with elections round the corner.
Anitha, a T Nagar resident says that though the apartment in which she lives has never before depended on Metro water and has always used water from the borewell, this summer even that has caused issues. "The water in the borewell is quite less this time and we have been rationing it for the residents of our flats. We now supply water only from 6.30 am to 12 noon and for half an hour in the evening," she says. Adding that the apartment has deepened the borewell to 350 feet recently, she says that even that will not ensure round the clock supply. "We might get water for an hour extra in the evening. That's all we are hoping for after the new borewell connection starts working," she says.
The restriction in water supply to the city's residential quarters can be traced to the abysmal water levels in the reservoirs that provide water to Chennai. On Monday, water at Poondi reservoir stood at 303 Mcft against the full level of 3,231 Mcft and water level at Sholavaram stood at 35 Mcft against its full capacity of 1,081 Mcft. Redhills lake had around 260 Mcft of water against its full capacity of 3,300 Mcft while Chembarambakkam reservoir painted a pathetic picture with just 7 Mcft of water as against its full level of 3,645 Mcft. Veeranam lake, which gets its inflow from Mettur dam had 543.08 Mcft of water on Monday.
The water levels at Chennai's reservoirs last year were much higher in comparison. On the same date in 2018, Poondi had 1,365 Mcft of water and Cholavaram had 83 Mcft of water. Redhills and Chembarambakkam had 1,751 Mcft and 1,144 Mcft respectively.
Acknowledging the draining water levels, a senior officer from the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) said that Chennai's reservoirs are indeed holding dead storage. He says that water level in Veeranam is decent for now. "Chennai's demand is around 830MLD in peak season and now we have restricted it to 550 MLD. We will further bring it down to 500 MLD in the coming days," he says.
However, he seems not too concerned about the water shortage that Chennai is staring at. "Right now we have sources to supply around 480 MLD of water which are not rain dependent. This is apart from the four lakes bordering Chennai. This includes water sourced from desalination plants, Veeranam, quarries and underground and agricultural wells," he says.
Adding that Chennai has faced worse situations before, the officer says that now the CMWSSB is confident of dealing with the situation at hand. "Back then we didn't have even the desalination plant to tap water from. Now we have good, reliable resources to fall back on. So I am not too worried. However, CMWSSB will be exercising prudence in the coming days with regard to water supply," he says.
Explaining to TNM that one of the major problems is water not reaching the narrow streets of the city, the officer says that the CMWSSB has roped in smaller vehicles with vertical sintex tanks of 3,000 litres capacity to supply water in narrow streets. "We will set up more such smaller capacity vehicles to ensure that everybody gets water," he adds. He also says that the Board will restrict water supply to once in three days in worst case scenarios from the alternate day supply that is taking place at present.