The water levels in Chennai’s four main reservoirs has recorded one of its lowest levels in seven decades, with the current quantities adding upto only 1.3% of the total capacity. This is the fifth lowest quantity of water recorded in the last 74 years, making it one of the worst droughts the city has witnessed.
According to data from the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), as of Sunday, Chembarambakkam Lake has only 1mcft of water compared to its capacity of 3645 mcft, Redhills has 28 mcft compared to 3300 mcft of storage, Poondi contains 118 mcft of water as opposed to its storage of 3231 mcft and Cholavaram has 4 mcft compared to a total capacity of 1081 mcft.
Weather blogger and ‘Tamil Nadu Weatherman’ Pradeep John who compiled that data points out that in July 2017, the total storage was only 0.6% of the total capacity and in Septemberr 2004 it was 0.0%. In October of 1987 before the Chembarambakkam Lake became a source of water, the city saw 0.0% of water stored and in July of 1975 the water stored as only 0.4% of the total capacity of the reservoirs.
“Whenever monsoon fails very badly, the next year Chennai falls in to the drought zone. Chennai’s four water supply lakes has just 1.3% of water with Chembarambakkam and Cholavaram going completely dry. Luckily, Veeranam has some water in 2019,” says Pradeep John, who handles Tamil Nadu Weatherman, to TNM. Chennai had received only 390 mm of rainfall in 2018 as against the normal of 850mm during the Northeast monsoon, when it gets a bulk of its annual rainfall.
“At this rate these four reservoirs will be empty by July. But we could get water from Veeranam,” he added. As far as replenishing the water sources are concerned, the only hope now is to wait for rain during the southwest monsoon, says the blogger.
“From June, Chennai will start to get southwest monsoons and it slowly continue till September. But the rains will be scant and small. It may rain for about one hour and while it may be raining in north Chennai, south Chennai may not get showers,” he predicts.
Pradeep says in such a situation, residents must look to rainwater harvesting. “Rainwater harvesting can play a major role in recharging and also provide water for our daily use from the sumps if we act smartly, atleast for those who can afford to do it,” he adds.
Chennai is already battling an acute water crisis despite CMWSSB rationing supplies from January. From the total daily supply of about 880 million litres a day, it has been brought down to 550 million litres a day. On May 15, CMWSSB stopped drawing water from the Redhills lake, which supplies the city 90 million litres-120 million litres a day.