Covid crisis may push city into water crisis this summer: Irrigation dept
An analysis by the Haryana irrigation and water resources department shows that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may put additional stress on water resources across the National Capital Region (NCR), including Gurugram district, and other metropolitan areas of Haryana. The driving factor behind this increase, according to the irrigation department, is the simple act of washing one’s hands—with an open tap.
For the NCR (Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat, Bahadurgarh, Ghaziabad, and Noida), which sources its water from the Yamuna and Ganga rivers, the Bhakra canal and from an array of ranney collectors and tube wells, the projected population of 28 million (280 lakh) people would require an additional 450MLD (million litres daily) to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Gurugram, with a projected population of three million people, will require an additional 45 million litres daily (MLD) to deal with the crisis, show estimates. The tri-city area of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, with a projected population of two million people, will require an additional 30MLD.
EBB AND FLOW
Superintending engineer of irrigation and water resources, Gurugram, Shiv Singh Rawat said, “Washing hands frequently will increase water consumption. A 20-second hand wash with an open tap utilises about 1.5 litres water. We have assumed that, in keeping with World Health Organisation guidelines, if a person is washing their hands about 15 times per day, up from the usual five to 10 times a day, it would require an additional 15 litres of water per person per day. That is an additional 75 liters per family per day, just for washing hands.”
Officials in the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) agreed that the domestic water demand has increased but said they would be able to manage supply till the time the curbs on malls and restro-bars continue.
“We have seen domestic water use rise by about 1.5 times during the lockdown, but we are able to offset that as many non-essential services, including malls and restaurants, are not operational. Corporate offices are shut, and people are not washing cars. So, at the moment, there is no added stress on the water supply,” GMDA chief engineer Pradeep Kumar said.
In the days immediately following the lockdown, the GMDA had reduced its water output from about 440 MLD to 395MLD. Now, just on the basis of domestic consumption in households, this has again been increased to 415-430MLD, Kumar said.
WHAT IF THE INDUSTRIES OPEN?
According to the irrigation department, the situation may get dire in the summer months, when the GMDA will have to start releasing additional water to make up for rising demand and evaporation losses.
“There is a shortage of water in the river Yamuna and it will get worse in coming summer. We are still releasing 600MLD of raw water to the GMDA, as was the case before the lockdown. Efforts are being made to meet the water demand through canals, but it is not enough,” Rawat said.
Moreover, when lockdown restrictions are eventually relaxed, it will coincide with the peak of summer season.
“This is an additional cause for concern. Even if industries and other non-essential services are allowed to resume operations only by end of May, it will be around the time that evaporation loss and public demand are highest, which will further strain water resources in an area where water is already a scarce commodity. The demand will exceed supply,” Rawat said, cautioning that the scarcity would encourage further exploitation of groundwater in cities such as Gurugram, which lack a perennial source of water to draw from.
STRAIN ON GROUNDWATER
According to NITI Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report from 2018, 21 major cities in the country, including Delhi, were pegged to exhaust their groundwater supply by 2020. This would affect water access for 100 million nationally, a cumulative result of groundwater over-extraction, inefficient wastewater management and insufficient monsoons in recent years.
Moreover, the looming water shortage holds within it a seed of a larger ecological crisis.
“About 80% water consumed domestically is released into drains and sewers as wastewater. In Gurugram, this will further pollute groundwater reserves, and even the Yamuna river. More wastewater also leads to more water borne diseases, such as common diarrhoea,” Rawat said.
TURN OFF THE TAP, SHOWER
With this in mind, both, the irrigation department and the GMDA have recommended that residents be more judicious in their use of water. Some of the steps which can be taken to conserve water include two simple steps of running taps only when necessary and taking baths using buckets, not showers.