Bengaluru: Karnataka is running out of water, fast: in fact, the available storage levels may only serve for another 20 days.

Ten major reservoirs in the state are down to less than one-fourth of their storage levels, according to the state’s disaster management authority website.

In such circumstances, the government says it has no option but to extensively exploit the groundwater table.

It will reach out to private borewells to augment drinking water supply to drought-affected villages through tankers, a government officer told Times of India.

Starting with Kolar district, a northern suburb of Bengaluru, private borewells will be paid 20,000 per month for allowing to draw water to the nearest pumping station, reports the newspaper.

The move comes a month after 10,000-odd farmers from the area showed up on tractors in Bengaluru to protest against the extreme inequity in drinking water distribution in Kolar and surrounding areas.

While Bengaluru city remains largely unaffected by the current drought, which came on the back of the poorest rainfall received in nearly half a century last year, other parts of the state have not been that fortunate.

Water crisis has peaked in many regions in the south Indian state that declared 28 of its 30 districts drought-hit last August, especially in its poorer and arid Northern districts.

It is a very critical situation, chief minister Siddaramaiah said on Monday, returning after a week-long visit to drought-affected districts. Split into four groups, his cabinet ministers are right now touring drought-hit areas to review the situation.

“Money is not a problem. We have kept some (Rs) 400 crore for mitigating the water shortage," said Dinesh Gundu Rao, state food and civil supplies minister, who is touring the drought-affected villages in Mandya, 100km from Bengaluru.

“But it is still a worrying situation. There is crop failure on one side, lack of employment on the other side. On top of it, there is no water even for drinking. Only good rain can help us," said Rao, who is touring along with his cabinet colleagues.

The groundwater table has also been sinking in the state, with digging machines going as deep as 1,000 ft at some places, forcing the state government to ban new borewells in December. In certain places, like Chamrajnagar which is facing the fifth consecutive drought year, borewells have totally dried up, The New Indian Express reported on Wednesday.