Mumbai: India’s major water reservoirs are running below 10-year average levels and a delay in the progress of monsoon may force states to cut supplies for irrigation and preserve it for drinking purposes, a senior government official said on Monday.
“Although most of the reservoirs are below their 10-year averages this year, it is for individual states to manage their reservoirs and set priorities according to local requirements,” A.K. Bajaj, chairman, Central Water Commission (CWC), said.
“If water level goes below certain level, they (states) generally stop supplying water for irrigation and keep it for drinking purpose.”
The live water storage at 81 major reservoirs, which account for 72% of total reservoir capacity in the country, has fallen to 17.5 billion cubic meters (BCM) as on 4 June.
Water levels in major reservoirs are unlikely to go far below present levels despite a delay in a progress of monsoon as local authorities will cut supplies for irrigation, Bajaj said.
The level is far below the 10-year average of 21.02 BCM and 40% lower compared to 29.24 BCM during the same period last year.
“If the water is already low, then providing for irrigation purpose is restricted and it is conserved for drinking or other essential purposes.”
India’s annual monsoon rains will not advance further during next 3-4 days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Monday.
A rise in demand and lower rainfall could have cut the reservoir levels, Bajaj said.
“Whatever rains were anticipated had, perhaps, not come, demand could have been more or could be that by the end of last monsoon, project authorities could not fill the reservoir levels to what they were expecting.”
Analysts said reservoirs will struggle to fill up to the optimum water level this year as water levels are already low and monsoon rains are not progressing well.
India’s monsoon for the week ended 10 June was 37% below normal as the progress of the annual rains, crucial to the farm sector, stalled after an early start, the meteorological department said on Thursday.
The June-September monsoon is a major influence on output of key crops, economic activity and also affects sentiment in the country’s financial markets.
Many Indian farmers cultivate crops a week or two week ahead of the scheduled arrival of monsoon rains using canal water. Besides, cultivators of sugarcane, cotton, banana and vegetables are also largely dependent on canal irrigation.
“It (lower water levels) will impact on all crops, especially those cultivated in irrigated areas,” said Ashwini Bansod, a senior analyst at MF Global Commodities India Ltd.
Good monsoon rains also lift rural demand for goods and services as agriculture accounts for a fifth of India’s gross domestic product, and two-thirds of Indians live in rural areas.