Forecast of weak monsoon puts Karnataka on tenterhooks

A cursory reading of the reservoir levels shows that the State is relatively more comfortable than last year. However, the prognosis looks dire with a weak monsoon predicted in large parts of the State.

The 13 major reservoirs on average store 153.87 tmcft of water, 18.23% more storage compared to the same period last year. Only the Ghataprabha and the Malaprabha have seen their reservoir levels lower than last year.

However, the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Centre (KSNDMC) is aware that this may change in a month if the monsoon fails.

Currently, the pre-monsoon is deficient by 40%, compared with an excess of 56% last year.

“Last year, by May-end, the catchment areas had been saturated and there were inflows into the reservoirs by June. This year, even with good monsoon, we may see saturation in June and inflows during July only,” said G.S. Srinivas Reddy, director of KSNDMC.

Low monsoon

The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) has predicted country-wide rainfall distribution of 96%, which falls in the lower edge of the definition of a “normal monsoon”.

However, Skymet, a private company, has predicted below normal monsoon for the State. Their spatial distribution of monsoon forecasts 5% to 10% deficient rainfall in south and coastal Karnataka, while north Karnataka may see upward of 10% deficient between June and September.

Month-wise forecasts show that June and July will see lower rainfall, with the monsoon picking up only after August. Twenty-nine districts in the State have been classified “high-risk” for monsoon failure.

If this plays out, this will see a touch-and-go situation for water.

“We expected a tough summer and had taken steps by December to save water in reservoirs. If we look at reservoirs in the Cauvery, we have around 11 tmcft now, which will last us till July-mid. Any delay after that and we may have to start pumping from dead storage,” said Mr. Reddy.

Consecutive years of drought have taken its toll on drinking water sources in many parts of the State.

Dip in groundwater

Groundwater, which is a major source of the drinking water, has continued to plummet — 83% of the wells have recorded a declining trend compared to the 10-year mean levels, with an estimated quarter of all wells monitored by the State groundwater authority being dry.

Nearly 63% of the over 3,600 minor irrigation tanks have gone completely dry, with all minor irrigation tanks in Vijayapura and Bidar having no water, shows data from the Minor Irrigation department till April 30. Another 33% are less than half full.

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