The water level in the 150 major Indian reservoirs declined for the 27th week in a row with the situation in the southern region, particularly Andhra Pradesh, turning perilous.

Of the four reservoirs in Andhra, the level in three of them is below 5 per cent of the capacity with Yeluru reservoir already going dry. Among the two reservoirs which serve Andhra and Telangana, the situation in Nagarjuna Sagar is precarious at one per cent of the capacity. 

Overall, the storage in Andhra reservoirs was 7 per cent of the capacity and for the reservoirs serving Andhra and Telangana the level was 8 per cent. A huge drop in storage levels in all major and medium reservoirs in the State and a drop of over two metres in groundwater levels worry farmers. The average groundwater in the State stood at 10.85 metres in March 2024, a drop of 2 metres since June 2023. 

Impact on paddy

As of March 20, the total cropped area in the State was 16.76 lakh hectares (lh) against the normal 22.38 lh. All the 26 districts reported a drop in the area under cultivation. Paddy was cultivated on 5.64 lh against the normal 7.91 lh.

“We used to grow the third crop after the rabi season. But we stopped the practice 3-4 years ago, leaving the fields tilled so that it gets some breather ahead of the kharif season,” NSV Sarma, a farmer in Krishna district, said.

The situation is no different in Telangana where depleting groundwater levels have impacted over 8 lh. The rabi season started late, resulting in heavy losses due to excessive temperatures and non-availability of water. “Groundwater levels fell by up to four metres in some districts. If a farmer has 10 acres, he is pinning hopes on 5-6 acres. Yields too have fallen as farmers could not water the crop at the grain-formation stage,” a senior agricultural scientist said.

Though the rabi season in most parts of the State is almost complete, the poor storage and groundwater levels are a cause for concern as it could impact the upcoming kharif season as well.

33% of capacity

Overall, the storage of the major reservoirs across the country dropped to 33 per cent of the 178.784 billion cubic metres (BCM) capacity at 58.308 BCM this week. The level in over 80 per cent or 122 of these reservoirs was below 50 per cent with half dozen of them gone dry already, the Central Water Commission (CWC) said in its weekly bulletin on live storage.

This year, the water level in storages has plunged to below 10-year average due to deficient rainfall on El Nino impact.

In the southern region, the level in the 42 reservoirs plunged to 18 per cent of the 53.334 BCM capacity at 9.770 BCM. The region made up over a third of the 94 reservoirs in the country, whose storage is below 40 per cent of the capacity. 

Apart from Andhra, the storage in Tamil Nadu, where the Aliyar has gone dry, is 40 per cent below normal, in Karnataka it was 21 per cent and in Telangana 7 per cent lower than normal, respectively. 

In Bihar, the storage was 83 per cent normal with the level in the 23 reservoirs of the eastern region slipping to 8.741 BCM, which is 43 per cent of the 20.430 BCM. 

In the 10 reservoirs of the northern region, the level slipped to 32 per cent of the 19.663 BCM capacity at 6.380 BCM. In the central region, the storage in the 26 reservoirs was 41 per cent of the 48.227 BCM capacity at 19.989 BCM. 

Of the 49 reservoirs in the western region, the level was 36 per cent of the 37.130 BCM capacity at 13.428 BCM. In Maharashtra, the storage is 15 per cent  below normal.

Other States where the storage is low are West Bengal (28 per cent below normal), Uttar Pradesh (27 per cent below normal), Chhattisgarh (27 per cent below normal and Karnataka (21 per cent below normal).