Water level in reservoirs shrinks further to 27% of storage capacity

Reservoir levels in eastern and southern India have plummeted to 15% and 34% respectively, affecting agriculture. The El Nino weather phenomenon led to lower rainfall, contributing to water scarcity in many regions.

Puja Das
First Published9 May 2024
The falling water reservoir levels coupled with high temperatures may affect sowing of summer crops, according to farm analysts.
The falling water reservoir levels coupled with high temperatures may affect sowing of summer crops, according to farm analysts.(AP)

New Delhi: Water levels in India’s 150 major reservoirs fell further to 27% of their total storage capacity, with eastern and southern India seeing levels depleting rapidly in the severe heatwave.

The falling water reservoir levels coupled with high temperatures may affect sowing of summer crops, according to farm analysts.

While 30 reservoirs have 50% of normal water storage capacity, the levels in eastern and southern reservoirs have dropped to as low as 34% and 15%, respectively, as per a bulletin issued by the Central Water Commission (CWC) on Thursday.

In a relief, the weather bureau on Thursday said that heat wave conditions are about to end across the country except in two regions—West Rajasthan and Kerala – by the end of this week.

Southern shortage

Southern states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and eastern states like Bihar and West Bengal have been facing significant shortfalls in water storage.

Also read | Reservoir levels fall further to 31% of total storage capacity

The depleting water level could be attributed to lower rainfall and a scorching summer caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon (which ended on 16 April as per the Australian Bureau of Meteorology), leading to water scarcity in some regions, besides droughts and prolonged dry periods across Asia.

As many as 22 states in the country have witnessed rain deficiency or no rainfall since March. The country has received 16% below-normal rainfall since March, as per the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

According to data from the CWC, the available water level this week in these reservoirs was 47.658 billion cubic metres (BCM), 20.7% lower than the corresponding period last year when it was 60.141 BCM and nearly 7.7% lower than the average of last 10 years (51.655 BCM).

Also read | Falling reservoir levels bode ill for hydro power generation this summer

The live storage available in 150 reservoirs as of Thursday was 79% of the live storage of the corresponding period of the previous year and 92% of storage of average of the past 10 years.

Mercury rising

The weather bureau last month warned that most regions of the country will witness above-normal temperatures during April-June. This prediction, coupled with drying water reservoirs, has prompted agriculture economists to warn of an adverse impact on the current rabi crop, especially in southern regions, as well as summer crops in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Currently, temperatures are hovering in the range of 43-46 degree celsius, with Barmer in West Rajasthan recording the higest of 46 degree Celsius on Wednesday.

Also read |  Reservoir levels dip amid weak rain, raises concerns

 

India will likely receive above-normal monsoon rainfall at 106% of long-period average (87 cm) this year with the El Nino weather phenomenon turning neutral, and benign La Nina conditions setting in by August-September, the IMD predicted.

Also read |  Dip in reservoir levels, El Nino forecast fuel winter crop concerns

Due to El Nino, India’s foodgrain production is estimated to be 6.1% lower in    e 2023-24 crop year (July-June) at 309 million tonnes, according to the second advance estimates issued by the agriculture and farmers’ welfare ministry in February.

“In the near term, owing to a prediction of high temperatures, sowing of summer crops-- cereals bajra, maize, moong, cucurbits and melons are expected to be negatively impacted following lower reservoir levels across key states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, AP, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” said Pushan Sharma, Director-Research, CRISIL Market Intelligence and Analytics.

Set to stabilize

“In the case of Kharif crops, CRISIL expects paddy and pulses acreages may revive to normal if the southwest monsoon is above normal. However, timely onset, spatial, and temporal distribution of rainfall remains a key aspect to monitor. Pulse crops have a comparatively limited sowing window beyond which, it gets difficult for the crop to establish, therefore, if the southwest monsoon begins on time, pulse acreages may significantly improve which may stabilize the pulse prices in the medium term.

Also read |

The acreage under maize and oilseeds may witness a decline if the rainfall is higher as a crop shift towards more remunerative crops like paddy and pulses is expected. Cash crops like sugarcane, cotton, and jute acreages are likely to fall owing to an expected hot summer when typically, the sowing starts for these crops,” Sharma added.

The situation in southern regions is worrying as the storage in the 42 reservoirs dropped to 15% of the 53.334 BCM capacity at 7.921 BCM. During the same period a year ago, the level was 27% of the capacity and 21% of the 10 year average, as per the CWC’s latest bulletin issued on Thursday.

Falling levels

As far as the eastern region is concerned, the water level in 23 reservoirs across Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura, Nagaland and Bihar fell further to 6.952 BCM, 34% of total live storage capacity of 20.430 BCM, while that of 49 reservoirs in the western region was down to 10.339 BCM, 28% of total live storage capacity of f 37.130 BCM.

Also read | Reservoir levels not alarming; Jal Jeevan on track: Jal Shakti minister

The available water level in key reservoirs of east India a year ago was 31% and the average storage of the last ten years during corresponding period was 34.2%. The water level in west Indian reservoirs last year during the same time was 34% and average storage for the last ten years during corresponding period was 29% of live storage capacity.

Water availability in the 26 reservoirs of the central region was at 16.687 BCM, 35% of the total live storage capacity of 48.227 BCM. The storage during the corresponding period of last year was 41% and average storage of the last ten years during the corresponding period was 33%.

For the northern region, available water in the 10 reservoirs was at 5.759 BCM, 29% of total live storage capacity of 19.663 BCM. The storage during the corresponding period last year was 37% and the average storage of the last ten years during the corresponding period was 33%.

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