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Water supply in Chennai manageable despite COVID-19, summer, says Metro Water

Increased awareness of washing hands in these times of COVID-19 and the frightening memories of the 2019 water crisis in the city notwithstanding, water managers are confident this summer can be seen off smoothly, thanks to a decent northeast monsoon and other sources.

Water supply in Chennai manageable despite COVID-19, summer, says Metro Water


This year, there may not be a water shortage in the city in the coming months too, thanks to the northeast monsoon in 2019 and the release of Krishna water from neighboring Andhra Pradesh.

Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB), which struggled to meet residents' demand last summer in the face of a deficit 2018 northeast monsoon, said the water position is "manageable" now. The four reservoirs supplying drinking water to the city -Poondi, Cholavaram, Red Hills and Chembarambakkam- have a combined storage of 6,086 million cubic feet (mcft) as on April 18, as against the 486 mcft during the corresponding period last year.

The combined full capacity is 11,257 mcft. "The lockdown is not for us. We have to carry out our jobs to ensure safe and adequate water to every household in the city, especially at this time of pandemic when everyone is washing hands regularly and are concerned about their hygiene more than ever before," Prabhushankar T Gunalan, Executive Director, CMWSSB, said.

Following all precautions vis-a-vis COVID19, the board is not only ensuring the safety of its own employees but also putting in place an effective crowd management system when tankers reach localities to distribute water to people. "At the CMWSSB office premises, the officials are wearing masks and using PPEs. We have also equipped the people involved in sanitation work with proper safety gear," he said.

"We are taking strict measures to make people stand in queues to get their daily supply of water. Also, we are ensuring that social distancing is being followed," he added. The city managers are "water positive and in a manageable position for at least the next two years," he said.

Many projects are on, including the desilting of water bodies by the Greater Chennai Corporation, even as the CMWSSB was working on groundwater use management. "We have a very good rainwater harvesting system in place. And, in coming years Chennai will be in a much better position," Prabhushankar said.

The CMWSSB is working on an 'ultrafiltration project in which the lakes will be filled with tertiary treated water and then the water will be used for various other purposes. As per official estimates, in the next 4-5 years, Chennai will no longer be dependent on monsoon for water needs, if the plans to augment the water resources work.

The year 2019 turned out to be an unforgettable one for city residents, as the earlier deficit northeast monsoon rendered the reservoirs dry while depleting water tables did no help, even as the issue caught international attention. The government, under the smart city mission, is installing automated meter reading (AMR) meters to keep a check on water consumption and water wastage.

"About 13,000 commercial establishments have been provided with the new meters. We will further extend the installation process by covering domestic establishments as well," he added. Post COVID-19, the CMWSSB will take up a door-to-door survey to collect a database of water consumption and will carry out water audits, to keep in check the demand and supply gap and also the quality of the water and whether the resources are being exploited.

The northeast monsoon season officially ended on December 31, 2019, but Tamil Nadu experienced its residual effects through the first week of 2020. The northeast monsoon brings the bulk of the state's rainfall and Tamil Nadu received 453.2 mm rainfall between October 1 and December 31 last year, which is slightly more than the 447.4 mm average.

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