The water level in almost 90 per cent of the 150 major Indian reservoirs plunged to below 50 per cent of the capacity this week, even as the storage dropped for the 30th week in a row, data from the Central Water Commission (CWC) showed.

Water levels, including ground water, have dropped since October 2023 in view of a deficient rainfall across the country under the influence of El Nino, which leads to dry periods and drought in Asia and Africa. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia, El Nino has ended but a couple of other international weather agencies say it will fully dissipate only around June. 

The storage situation leaves a question mark over the zaid or summer crop, particularly paddy, pulses and oilseeds in the southern and western regions. Lower groundwater levels in Telangana, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have led to problems of drinking water supplies in major cities. 

The CWC weekly bulletin of the storage in the major 150 reservoirs showed that two-thirds of the storages were filled to less than 40 per cent of the capacity. The level dropped to 28 per cent of the capacity this week at 50.432 billion cubic metres (BCM) against the 178.784 BCM capacity. 

During the same time last year, the reservoirs were filled to 81 per cent of the capacity. Over the past decade, the average level has been 96 per cent of the capacity. 

The situation in the southern region was worrisome with the level being 16 per cent of the capacity. The storage in the western region dropped below 30 per cent and to 31 per cent in the northern region. In the eastern region, the reservoirs were filled to 36 per cent of the capacity, while in the central region, the level was down to 36 per cent of the capacity.  

South stressed

At least six reservoirs have run dry — five of them in the southern region, while in another dozen the storage was in single digits. 

Among the States, the situation in Bihar was really bad with its sole reservoir’s level down to 5 per cent of its capacity. The state’s water storage was 95 per cent lower than usual.

The situation in Andhra Pradesh continued to worsen with the level continuing at a low 7 per cent of the capacity and in the reservoirs that jointly provide water to Telangana and Andhra, the storage was 8 per cent. 

Overall, Andhra water situation was 80 per cent below normal. While the Yeluru reservoir has gone dry, the level in Somasila was one per cent of the capacity. Nagarajuna Sagar, which is common for Telangana and Andhra, has also gone dry.

In Telangana, where rainfall was better compared to other southern States, Priyadarshini Jurala and Kaddam (KNR) have run dry

In Tamil Nadu, the storage is 43 per cent below normal with its reservoirs’ level being 19 per cent of the capacity. Sholayar, which went dry two weeks ago, has water that is 1 per cent of the capacity. 

In Karnataka, the water level was 23 per cent below normal with the reservoirs filled to 16 per cent of the capacity. While Thattihalla went dry a couple of months ago, the level in Krishnaraja Sagara, which irrigates the Cauvery delta, was 7 per cent of the capacity and in Tungabhadra, which provides water to Andhra and Telangana, the level was 3 per cent of the capacity. 

The situation will likely continue to be grim given the India Meteorological Department prediction of a higher than normal temperature in most parts of the country in May. 

Among other States, the level in Punjab was 24 per cent below normal, while it was 22 per cent lower than usual in West Bengal. The storage in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh were 18 per cent and 24 per cent lower than normal, and 26 below usual in Chhattisgarh.