Mumbai's worst fears have come to pass. In the course of dealing with the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, all eyes were off the skies. It has rained but not enough and not in the right spots. July has ended but lake levels are nowhere near where they should have been, failing to make even the 35 per cent passing grade, so it is time for the city to grapple with another 'C', for a cut in water supply.
"Use smaller glasses to drink water, use a wet cloth to wipe down your vehicles instead of splashing /spraying water....Plant more trees...,"the BMC appealed to Mumbaikars on Friday. This plea will be followed up with a 20% water cut across the city, starting today.
The civic body formally announced the water cut, citing that there was just 34 percent of potable water stock available in all the seven lakes supplying water to Mumbai. On July 31, 2019, the total water stock was 85.68% and 83.30% in the preceding year. Every year, the seven lakes must have 14.5 lakh million litres by October 1, failing which the civic body has no option but to impose a water cut for the rest of the year. The current water storage in all seven lakes is 4.9 lakh million litres, just 34% of the full capacity of the reservoirs.
BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal had discussed the proposal of a 20 per cent water cut starting August 1, following which a formal announcement was made on Friday.
Chahal said: "We have about 34% water stock available as of now, which is very less as compared to the water stock in last five years. I hope that it rains well in August and September. But we will have a back-up. I was the irrigation secretary of the state and have a plan to get water from Bhandardara Dam in Ahmednagar to Mumbai, if need be."
"Not just lakes and catchment areas in Mumbai but those in Thane and Nashik too have received poor rainfall. If this situation persists even at the end of monsoon, we will not have enough water for the entire year. Hence the water cut has been imposed," Chahal explained.
He added that the BMC would ease the restrictions on water supply should the rainfall increase in the month of August.
Though the city received heavy showers in July, there was poor rainfall in the catchment areas of the five lakes in Thane and Raigad. Of the two small lakes within Mumbai city limits, Tulsi has breached the overflow mark.
Civic officials, anticipating such a situation, had begun reviewing lake levels and possible solutions. The seven lakes -- Bhatsa, Tansa, Tulsi, Vihar, Upper Vaitarna, Middle Vaitarna and Modak Sagar provide water to Mumbai. Bhatsa lake, the biggest supplierof water (48%) to Mumbai, recorded live water storage of 123 metres on Friday, whereas its overflow level is 142.07 metres. Last year, it had started overflowing on August 5.
Between 2016 to 2019, rainfall over catchment areas and lakes had exceeded 1,000 to 1,500mm in July. This year, however, July has come and gone but the overall rainfall recorded in the catchment areas in the past 31 days has been less than 1,000 mm.
Civic officials said that the water cut would also be applicable to the Thane and Bhiwandi municipal corporations along with other rural areas where water supply is provided by the BMC. "We appeal to citizens to use water judiciously and save as much water as possible during this water cut. Avoid waste as much as possible," Chahal said.