Water scarcity essentially refers to the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water within a region. This major problem is already affecting every continent, with around 2.8 billion people around the world falling victim to this crisis. More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean and hygienic drinking water. Water scarcity is driven by two interrelated phenomena- rising freshwater use, and the resultant depletion of usable freshwater resources. Physical water scarcity and economic water scarcity are two other aspects that decrease water availability. Physical scarcity is the result of inadequate natural water supply for a region’s demand, while economic water scarcity is a result of poor management of the available water resources.
Bangalore is a city with an annual rainfall of 900mm with three different rainy seasons covering nine months of the year. June to October marks the rainy season, accounting for 64% of the total annual rainfall in the South-West region and 324mm (1.1ft) during the North-East monsoons. Fortunately, the streams between ridges and valleys have been modified at suitable locations, creating a cascade of reservoirs in each of the three valley systems. Each lake stores rain water from its catchments, with the excess flow spilling down the stream into the next lake in the cascade. The storm waters run off through drains, which are also channels for sewage. Places like Kanteerva Stadium, the football stadium, the hockey stadium and many other residential areas stand over the murdered lakes. These lakes have been affected drastically by urbanization, real estate projects, toxic effluents and the trash produced and dumped in by the industries. Bellandur Lake, in fact, often bursts into flames and spreads toxic black smoke into the city. Other lakes have been covered by tarmac and concrete to make way for more buildings, while some have simply dried up.
The size of the city has more than tripled in just over a decade to over 800 square km which nearly half the size of London. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is the main agency that manages drinking water and it is able to provide water only to 60% of the city. According to the organization,, each day, the city pushes over 1.4 billion liters of water through its pipes and still falls short of the requirement of 800 million liters. As of now, the shortage is managed by the private traders who get their supply from wells which are rapidly being dug to deeper levels, while the groundwater levels plunge simultaneously. In fact, the ground water is falling so fast in Bangalore that the government last year predicted that there would be nothing left below the city, at all possible levels that one could dig deep, by the end of 2020. We have all heard about the South African city Cape Town, which had a countdown from 2017 to “day zero” when all the taps were predicted to run dry, and the risk that lies ahead of us is similar to this; there is a chance that we might actually end up like Cape Town. When clean drinking water runs out, people will have no option but to rely on unsafe water which will lead to more deaths and higher infant mortality.
The only way to overcome this pressing problem is by convincing owners of houses, malls, apartments etc. to install rain water harvesting systems and use solar energy. The existing greenery should be saved at any cost, coupled with proper planning. Encroached lakes should immediately be recovered. BWSSB should keep a track on leaky pipes and repair them immediately. Reuse of waste water should be introduced for the purpose of gardening, washing vehicles and bathrooms. In public places, toilets with Indian commodes should be built because western commodes use up more water, are not properly used and could be unhygienic in certain cases. In fact, in order to tackle this water crisis the Karnataka government is mulling a ban on the construction of new apartments in the city for the next five years.
Water scarcity is a serious problem that will in turn lead to many other issues like unhygienic living conditions, outbreaks of disease, an increase in the number of crimes due to water wars etc. This scarcity will also lead to economic losses. We should thus be very cautious and use water in a more efficient way and do our best to save every drop of it.
Picture Courtesy- Patrika