Water
Lack of pre-monsoon rainfall led to unprecedented levels of water scarcity in the two districts prompting authorities to begin rationing water supply to its residents.
Baje reservoir, Udupi | Photograph via Twitter

“We have almost run out of water and we are hoping and praying that the monsoon rains arrive and save our district,” Udupi MLA Raghupathi Bhat speaks on behalf of almost everyone in the coastal Karnataka district while describing the unprecedented water scarcity that has seen residents struggle this year.

District authorities in Karnataka’s Udupi and neighbouring Dakshina Kannada are hoping that the monsoons arrive before the water supply from the Baje and Thumbe reservoirs, which supply water to Udupi and Mangaluru respectively, runs out.

The situation in Udupi has reached a tipping point with the water at the Baje reservoir, built on the Swarna river, set to run out in the next two days. “We had hit dead storage on May 4 and we have been pumping water out of the dam ever since. This will run out in one or two days. Even today, we are yet to begin supplying the water because we need to be careful that we save some water in the river otherwise it will affect the marine life here,” explains Raghavendra, environmental engineer with the Udupi Municipal Council. Dead storage refers to water in a reservoir that cannot be drained by gravity and has to be pumped out.

Baje reservoir, Udupi in May 2019 | Photograph via Raghupathi Bhat

The situation is slightly better in Mangaluru. Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) executive engineer KS Lingegowda told TNM that the water at the Thumbe reservoir, built on the Nethravati river, is set to last one more week. “The water level at the dam is currently at 2.3 metres. The dead storage at the dam is 1.3 metres so we have a 1 metre cushion but we are praying for the rains to arrive before the water runs out,” Lingegowda says.

A lack of pre-monsoon rainfall led to unprecedented levels of water scarcity in the two districts prompting authorities to begin rationing water supply to its residents. In Mangaluru, water is being supplied for four days followed by a three-day break. In Udupi, water is being supplied once in three days since the start of April.

Read: Mangaluru gripped by water scarcity, unprecedented situation sees residents struggle

The lack of water availability has even forced some schools to postpone reopening for the new academic year while other schools have decided to send students back home after the morning session. “We are having severe problems because there is no water anywhere. We are waiting and praying for rains to arrive through the monsoon. This time around, there has been negligible pre-monsoon rains and this has hit Udupi badly,” Raghupathi Bhat says.

Baje reservoir, Udupi in May 2019 | Photograph via Raghupathi Bhat

Read: Water scarcity forces schools in coastal Karnataka to postpone reopening

The monsoon, which usually begins at the start of June, has also been delayed this year. However, in what will come as a relief to the residents of the two districts, meteorologists at the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) predict that the monsoon will arrive in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi by Monday.

“The monsoon is expected to arrive in Kerala on Saturday and it may take a maximum of two more days to bring rains in Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu. It is expected to bring a good amount of rainfall coupled with heavy winds of up 30 km/hr,” Sunil Gavaskar, a meteorologist with KSNDMC stated.

The water scarcity in the district has even forced authorities to plan rain-water harvesting during the monsoon this year in order to avoid a similar situation in the future.