Water crisis imminent for Telangana and Andhra as reservoirs hit dead storage levels

While the Nagarjuna Sagar dam as already hit its dead storage level, the Sri Sailam dam will soon follow suit.
Water crisis imminent for Telangana and Andhra as reservoirs hit dead storage levels
Water crisis imminent for Telangana and Andhra as reservoirs hit dead storage levels
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As temperatures continue to swell in the two Telugu states, with northern parts of Telangana and the Rayalaseema region in Andhra already sizzling, a water crisis is looming large. 

Even before peak summer has begun, the two main reservoirs that supply water have almost hit dead storage levels.

There are two major dams on the Krishna River that lie on the border between the two states - the Srisailam dam which is upstream and the Nagarjuna Sagar dam which is downstream.

At the Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir, the present level is 507.5 feet, compared to its full capacity of 590 feet. 

The dead storage level is 510 feet. 

At the Sri Sailam Reservoir, the present level as of Thursday morning was 804.1 feet, compared to its full capacity of 885 feet, and its dead storage level of 800 feet.

However, speaking to The News Minute, Chief Engineer of the Nagarjuna Sagar Project for Telangana, S Suneel, says that there is not a lot to worry about.

"I think the situation is comfortable now. All the standing crops in Telangana have been supplied with the water they need. There is a little concern with drinking water, but we have around 9 to 10 TMC of water right now," he says.

The Nagarjuna Sagar's left canal, which is under Telangana's control, is divided into three zones. While Zone 1 is entirely in Telangana and Zone 3 is entirely in Andhra, Zone 2 runs zig zag between the two states.

"There is some demand from the left canal. If we release it immediately, we can address everyone's needs," Suneel says.

"We are only drawing water for drinking purposes as of now," he adds. 

Another major problem with falling water levels, is pressure.

When the storage is full, the capacity of the left canal to pump water is 11,000 cusecs. However, when the water level falls below 520 feet, the pumping capacity also goes down to around 6,000 or 7,000 cusecs.

With the two states planning to draw water till the water level almost touches 500 feet, the pressure will almost be half its original capacity.

Therefore, to ensure water supply to Hyderabad, the Telangana government might have to install extra pumps along the way.

This week, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) stated that it was doing exactly that.

"Irrigation department uses its pumps at Puttamgandi to draw water till the level reaches 506 feet at Nagarjunasagar and then the water board has to start using emergency pumps from 505 feet onwards. Works pertaining to installation of emergency pumps at Puttamgandi village began two days ago," HMWS&SB chief general manager-transmission, B Vijay Kumar Reddy told the Times of India.

While even the Sri Sailam's water is close to touching its dead storage level, reports suggest that authorities of the two states have decided to release water till the level touches 785 feet.

There are also reports which suggest that the states may need to draw water from the Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir, even below 500 feet. 

Till now, this has only happened once in the history of the Krishna river in 2003, to provide water to save crops. 

However, Suneel says that the situation is still under control.

"In my opinion, there won’t be any immediate issues if we release water below the dead storage level. Even during the peak summer, we should be able to manage," he says.

According to reports, the dead storage level means that no power can be generated from the reservoirs.

Keeping in mind the annual conflict, the Centre has tried to pacify the two states.

In September, last year, a meeting was held between Union Minister Uma Bharti, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao, along with irrigation ministers and top officials from both the states.

Telangana alleged that Andhra was resorting to diversion of huge quantity of water from the Pothireddypadu head/flow regulator. Andhra objected to "illegal projects" like Palamuru-Ranga Reddy and Dindi being taken up by Telangana.

Telangana also demanded a share in the Krishna water as compensation for Andhra Pradesh diverting Godavari water through the Pattiseema lift irrigation scheme.

After the meeting that lasted for over two hours, the Centre stated that there was agreement on a few issues.

Uma Bharati had said that a telemetry system would be installed to gauge how much water was flowing into each state, and a joint committee from the Central Water Commission (CWC) would be constituted to study the issue in detail.

Several months later, work on the telemetry system is still in its initial phases.

As far as the joint committee is concerned, a Bajaj Committee was formed, which was headed by former chairman of the CWC, AK Bajaj.

After holding meetings with officials of the two states in February, and touring the area, the Committee refused to intervene in the issue.

The Committee had initially expected to resolve the issue easily, but reportedly said that it was not easy, as both governments held 'widely divergent' views.

Members of the Committee headed back to Delhi, saying that they would inform the Centre of the issues raised.

Answering a question in the Lok Sabha last week, Minister of State for Water Resources, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, said that the Committee was working on solutions and had a three-month deadline.

"KRMB is issuing water release orders from time to time based on an ad hoc arrangement as agreed by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for sharing Krishna water till the final allocation is made by the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal-II," Balyan was quoted as saying.

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