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What is the Reason Behind Delhi’s Severe Water Shortage?

This summer, Delhi has been experiencing severe water shortages, with water levels in the Yamuna dwindling.

Kritika Madhukar
Notice from the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) alerting the public of water shortages was issued on June 9
Notice from the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) alerting the public of water shortages was issued on June 9

The most recent notice from the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) alerting the public of water shortages was issued on June 9. It stated that the DJB had "done rationalization" of water in Delhi and that water would be available at low pressure beginning June 10 until sufficient water was available.

The DJB relies on the Yamuna for roughly 40% of its water supply. Haryana, which is upstream, supplies Delhi with Yamuna water.

With the river's water level dropping this year, water treatment plants in Delhi have struggled to draw raw water and meet demand. The DJB said that the shortage is due to insufficient supplies from Haryana. 

In its June 9 notice, the board said that there has been "less receipt" of raw water in the Delhi Sub-Branch (DSB) and Carrier Lined Channel (CLC), and that water will be available at low pressure until "sufficient water is released by Haryana in DSB, CLC, and River Yamuna."

The CLC and DSB transported water from Haryana's Munak to Delhi. Since the end of April, the DJB has repeatedly written to the Haryana Irrigation Department, requesting 150 cusecs of additional water to meet Delhi's demand. The DJB had also mentioned in its letters that the river had run dry.

What Has Caused the Yamuna's Water Level to Drop?

With northwest India experiencing an unusually warm summer and a rainfall deficit in recent months, parts of the Yamuna River bed are visible as it flows through Delhi. The rainfall deficit over northwest India from March to May this year is 63 percent, and northwest India also had its hottest March and April on record.

The pond at Wazirabad, from which two of Delhi's WTPs draw water, has run dry. As some river water from other points was also rerouted to Wazirabad, water production was reduced at seven of Delhi's nine WTPs last week.

What steps are being taken to address the crisis?

The DJB has been pulling more groundwater from tubewells to meet demand. The DJB intends to build RO plants in six locations throughout the city to increase drinking water availability. 

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stated that the government is working on recharging groundwater to increase the city's production capacity. Last week, both Kejriwal and DJB Vice-Chairman Saurabh Bharadwaj urged the Haryana government to release more water. Haryana officials have insisted that the water owed to Delhi is being released.

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