Summertime water tussle heats up as irrigation officials ask civic body to lift only 900 million litres of water per day from dams instead of over 1,100; PMC says it can't impose further water cuts as residents already get supply just once a day.

Water scarcity every summer is not new and the management of water distribution between the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Irrigation Department (ID) till the rains bring relief has also become a regular feature during the hot season. This summer, the ID has asked the PMC to lift only 900 million litres per day (MLD) instead of 1,150 MLD.

In short supply: The Khadakwasla dam, one of the four dams that
supply water to the city. The water held by the Khadakwasla dam was
1.21 TMC yesterday. File pic

With this development, the water tussle between the PMC and the ID has peaked and threatens to blow up into a full-scale war over water.

"The PMC is lifting 1,150 MLD of water even though we had asked it to lift only 900 MLD for the sake of economical use of water for drinking purpose," said Avinash Surve, Superintendent Engineer, ID. "This is a gross violation of the understanding."

According to Surve, only 3 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of water is made available for drinking and other purposes out of 8 TMC.

"We have to provide 5 TMC of water for sugarcane and other crops grown by farmers in nearby Indapur, Daund and Haveli. The PMC should understand our problem and only stick to using 3 TMC water stock reserved for it," said Surve. "Otherwise, the PMC has to go for one day's water closure every week. PMC water supply engineers are also considering this option."

Pathak digs heels in
Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak ruled out the possibility of another water cut in the city.

"One-time water supply schedule is already operational since the first week of March. Technically, we can't come down to 900 MLD of water as it will create a basic distribution problem in the city and lead to havoc.

Water lifting of 1,100 MLD to 1,125 MLD is our minimum requirement and we can't go below this level. Also, we are not lifting 1,150 MLD as wrongly claimed by ID officials," said Pathak. "The city requires 1,250 MLD water in the normal routine. One day's water cut will be possible only by mid-May or the first week of June if the situation remains unchanged. We are demanding more water stock than 3 TMC, without cutting anyone's water share. Drinking water should always be kept top priority."

Going to higher-ups
According to Pathak, water demand is 20 per cent higher every summer and the PMC tries to maintain a balance by taking due care to economically distribute water.

"Economical use of water was officially declared by Deputy CM Ajit Pawar on December 28, 2011 in a meeting in Pune even before the elections, and we are following his instructions. No cuts were made after the elections. We shall raise the water issue at the top ministerial level," said Pathak.

V G Kulkarni, Development Engineer (Water Supply), PMC, said the ID should be the one cutting down on water lifting. "We actually require 5 TMC of water and ID can manage with 3 TMC for rabbi crops, which will be harvested by April 15. By using 1 TMC for six days, 18 days will have a total of 3 TMC of water for the rabbi crops," said Kulkarni. "ID officials should not go back on their commitment of not providing second rotation of water to these crops."

Jagannath More, a resident of Mangalwar Peth, said there was mismanagement in water supply by the PMC.
"We are already getting water only one time and now I heard there is talk of a further 25 per cent cut. It will be disastrous if the PMC announces one day's water cut in a week. Citizens will come on the road for water and this is certainly not good for the PMC and the ID as well," said More.

Water loss last year
AVINASH Surve, Superintendent Engineer, Irrigation Department, said heavy rainfall on September 7, 2011 -- 2.5 times more than usual -- made necessary the release of 25 TMC of water from the four dams near the city, at Khadakwasala, Varasgaon, Panshet and Temghar. The total storage capacity of these dams is 29.16 TMC.

Dam water levels
Khadakwasala: 1.21 TMC
Panshet: 4.72 TMC
Varasgaon: 2.10 TMC
Temghar: 0.03 TMC
Total: 7.99 TMC