Without rain for 194 days, Chennai faces acute water shortage

Without rain for 194 days, Chennai faces acute water shortage
The towers in the dried up Puzhal reservoir in Chennai which is used for measuring the water level.

Chennai: When people in Chennai meet these days, they invariably ask one question - is there water? It has been 194 days since it last rained in this part of the country. And the metro city of Chennai is facing acute water shortage.

Water scarcity is the one issue that is plaguing not just homes, but offices, hotels and even schools. With the groundwater reserve getting depleted, authorities are looking at a bleak future if it doesn't rain soon. People are pinning their hopes on the weatherman's prediction that it would rain within a week.

Hotels to shut?

The water shortage has started affecting the hotels in the city. Several of the small and medium hotels are planning to down the shutters until the situation improves. The famous Thennagam Hotel in Nungambakkam has already closed down. A notice, stating that hotel would resume service once the water crisis was resolved, was also put up outside.

There are thousands of such hotels in the city. Private water tankers are charging huge amounts with the water scarcity getting acute. They are charging more than five times the usual rate. Hotel owners are saying that it was better to shut down the business rather than paying such obscene prices for water.

Earlier, small hotels used to spend Rs 20,000 per month. Now, even for 10 days they have to shell out that much. Though big hotels are also facing trouble, the water scarcity is yet to hit their functioning.

Without rain for 194 days, Chennai faces acute water shortage
The Poondi Reservoir, which is the main source for water supply in Chennai.

No washrooms

To battle the water scarcity, hotels are employing various methods. Several hotels have closed their washrooms. They have kept water in a small vessel for the people to wash their hands after a meal. The hoteliers said that it would help in reducing the amount of water lost.

No meals

Several hotels in Nungambakkam have also omitted the usual rice thali meals from their lunch menu. This is to save the water needed for cooking the different kinds of curries that are part of it. They have put up notices, announcing the meals’ omission. Hotels have also reduced the number of working hours. Hotels that were open from morning till night, now open only twice in a day.

The hotel owners in Chennai met Tamil Nadu Minister S P Velumani Sunday and urged the government to take some steps to counter the acute situation.

Chennai Drought
the dried up Chembarambakkam reservoir in Chennai.

They also sought the minister's nod to directly take water from wells in Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur regions. The hoteliers pointed out that they had to depend now on private tankers, who were fleecing them.


Hostels (locally called mansions), mainly occupied by bachelors, in the city are probably the worst affected by the water shortage. Most of the lodges and hostels in the city are located at Triplicane, Chepauk, and Royapettah areas. Several of them have shut for now. The rooms that were rented out to two people are now being given to just one person. Most places have also increased the rent. Earlier too, hostels and lodges were depended on private tankers for water. Earlier Rs 1,200 was charged for 12,000 litres, and now, it is as high as Rs 7,000-Rs 12,000.

"It is just not possible to go ahead like this!" said Ravi, the owner of Kings Mansion at Triplicane.

Heat wave

Ten north Tamil Nadu districts, including Chennai, would witness heat wave with the temperature further rising up by 5-6 degrees Celsius on Wednesday. The warning was issued for Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur , Vellore, and Tiruvannamalai. The mercury may touch 45 degrees Celsius in these areas. The IMD has, therefore, warned people to avoid getting out from 11am to 4pm. From June 20 onwards, the daytime temperature in Chennai would gradually reduce.

Depleting groundwater reserve

The groundwater reserve in several of the districts are getting depleted, triggering anxiety. As many as 22 districts, including Chennai, where the water is getting depleted at an alarming rate have been put in the red category. Cuddalore, Tuticorin, and Tirunelveli were put into the red category during the past month. If the amount of rainfall reduces again this year, more districts would come into the red category.

The groundwater reserve in Tirunelveli recorded a drop of 0.83 metres, while in Tuticorin it was 0.45 metres and in Cuddalore it was 0.43 metres. This is for the first time since January 2018 that the groundwater reserve is reducing in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin. Less rainfall is the reason. Nine districts, including Madurai, Erode, Tiruchirappalli and Coimbatore, that received substantial rainfall this year, have recorded an increase in groundwater reserve.

Chennai Drought
Water pipes from the Puzhal reservoir.

The worst affected

A huge drop in groundwater reserve was reported in Chennai and nearby districts of Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur, Vellore, and Tiruvannamalai. It is suspected that the private tankers drew groundwater in excess amounts for distribution in Chennai, leading to the groundwater depletion. Perambalur and Tiruvannamalai were the worst affected. The groundwater reserve dropped by 4.5 metres in both districts within a year.

Rainless record

If it doesn't rain even by Thursday, Chennai would be holding on to an unenviable record. This will be Chennai's longest dry spell in 10 years. Tuesday was the 194th day without rain. Before the floods of 2015 too, Chennai had witnessed a long dry spell. Then also it had rained continuously after 193 days of dry spell. It was predicted that when the monsoon reached Telangana on June 19, it was likely to rain in Chennai too.

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