Come Summer, India Will Reel Under an Imminent Water Crisis

Water at the nation’s 91 reservoirs was at 27 percent of the total capacity as on 17 March.

2 min read

India faces a severe water shortage this summer as the nation’s reservoirs are at a lower level than a year ago and temperatures are expected to be higher.

Water at the nation’s 91 reservoirs was at 27 percent of the total capacity on 17 March, according to Central Water Commission’s website. That compares with 39 percent a year ago. The water level could recede faster than usual with the Indian Meteorological Department forecasting warmer-than-normal temperatures in March to May in various parts of the country.

This year may be one of the hottest for India on record, Bloomberg reported quoting M Rajeevan, secretary for the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Deficient winter rain and lower snowfall in glaciers may affect water availability in northern Indian plains in the summer months, he said.

Monsoon rains that meet nearly 80 percent of India’s water needs arrive only in June. Large parts of the country face water shortage in summers from March till May. The country’s dams can store only 200 cubic meters per person of water, according to a World Bank report. That compares with 5,000 cubic meters in the US and Australia, and 1,000 cubic meters in Mexico and China. India can store only about 30 days of rainfall, compared with 900 days in major river basins in arid areas of developed countries.

Rainfall deficiency has been accumulating over the last few seasons, due to which the temperature will be running above normal, GP Sharma, president at weather forecaster Skymet Weather Solutions Pvt Ltd, told BloombergQuint in an interview. “It (warmer than normal temperatures) will be short term. However, we will face a heat wave situation.”

The cumulative rainfall during this year’s winter season up to 28 February stands below long-period average of 63 percent, according to an IMD release.

The actual rainfall received was 15.4 mm versus normal rainfall of 41.4 mm.

While the monsoon pattern seems erratic so far, Sharma said there are no alarming indications yet.

Rajeevan said the government is writing to states to formulate plans for tackling heat and water shortages, the Bloomberg report added. The first spell of this year’s heat waves is likely in the second week of April, he said.

(The story was first published on Bloomberg Quint.)

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