automated tertiary treatment plant at Vrishabhavati in Bangalore recently, Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna said treated tap water will be used only for drinking water while industries and gardens will have to do with recycled and wastewater. He added the departments concerned would be asked to take measures to make the usage of non potable recycled water mandatory for industries and gardening.
Krishna's caution comes under the looming threat of a probable potable water crisis in Bangalore. Reeling under a severe drought for the past three years, the prime reservoirs from which the city gets its water supply, have reached their lowest level in the last 48 years. And if, informs MN Vidyashankar, Chairman, Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board (BWSSB), the city continues to receive 800 million litres per day (the highest usage of water by any other Indian city), water in these reservoirs will just be enough to last till the third week of June.
An advertisement issued in the public interest by the BWSSB advises people not waste water in gardening, washing yards and cars. "This is for public awareness. We are not yet pressing the panic button," adds Mr Vidyashankar.
"However, we cannot afford any further delay in monsoon this year," he added.
The drought for the third consecutive year has dried up almost the entire state barring Udupi and Dakshina Kannada district. As of now, with a 95 per cent of deficit in rain during May and no trace of monsoon, the stark reality facing the State is a failed Kharif crop. "There was no rainfall in April and May this year with the result that water bodies have dried up," said Vidyashankar. According to Drought Monitoring Cell Director VS Prakash, "In May Karnataka should have received 8 per cent of the total annual rainfall. There is a 95 per cent deficit for May."
Drought has struck the state in its bleakest severity. Crops have withered away, north Karnataka is in the throes of an acute water shortage; almost all ponds in the twin city of Hubli-Dharwad have dried up and the under ground water level has depleted considerably.
Neerasagar reservoir, the main source of water supply to the two cities has dried completely and people have to walk for at least three kilometres to fetch potable water. Non-availability of alternate arrangements to get water from rivers like Kali and Krishna that are flowing through the neighbouring districts has added to the water problem in Hubli-Dharwad. To streamline the drinking water supply system, the corporation has handed over the system to the Karnataka Water Supply & Sewerage Board since April 1.
The Tungabhadra river, the lifeline of Haveri, Bellary, Gadag, Koppal and Raichur districts - has gone dry for the first time in 200 years. In Haveri, people have to trek at least two kilometres to fetch potable water. Of the 200 borewells drilled as deep as 500 feet in the district, only 17 were successful.
People in the border districts, particularly Gulbarga, are fleeing to neighbouring states. The Linganamakki reservoir in Malnad region has water to generate electricity for another few days and the situation is no better for farmers in Mysore, Nanjangud and T Narasipur taluks.