The country’s water reserves have remained lower than a year earlier for three consecutive weeks through Thursday, as seasonal shower has dropped 9% from the benchmark average following a decline in the intensity of monsoon since early July.
According to the data by the ministry of water resources, water storage across 91 reservoirs hit 91.07 billion cubic metres (bcm) up to Thursday, compared with 103.59 bcm a year earlier and even lower than the normal 10-year average of 98.77 bcm. The latest storage level is 58% of the total live capacity of these reservoirs, lower than that of 66% a year earlier.
The data showed that water storage in few states, particularly in Southern India, were alarmingly low. In Telangana, the reserves were 74% lower than normal, closely followed by Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, which saw the storage tumbling by 49%, 39% and 34%, respectively, from the benchmark levels.
The quantum of rainfall in the current monsoon season was 573.3 millimetres until Wednesday, compared with the LPA for the period of 631 millimetres, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Monsoon showers were 16% above the LPA in June and 16% lower than the benchmark average in July alone. Rains have been rather erratic since July, with heavy downpour in select regions (West Madhya Pradesh and Gangetic West Bengal, for example) and dry-spells in some others.
If rain distribution remains abnormal this month, the deficit in showers would affect not just the sowing but also the health of the already-planted crops. As such, the IMD this month retained its earlier forecast of a deficient monsoon season for 2015, with rainfall at 88% of the LPA. It predicted rainfall to be 84% of the benchmark average in the second half of the June-September season, compared with the actual showers of 95% of the LPA in the first two months of the season.
Helped by good rainfall in June and comfortable water reserves, the sowing of summer crops had jumped significantly in the initial phases before slowing down. The area under various kharif crops rose 3.2% up to August 14 from a year before, but the lead over last year has narrowed from as high as 63% until July 17.
According to the IMD, only 19 of the country’s 36 weather sub-divisions have witnessed normal showers so far. As many as 14 sub-divisions have received deficient rainfall, while 3 have seen excess shower. Marathwada has witnessed the worst rainfall deficit so far (-46%), followed by parts of Karnataka (-44%) and Madhya Maharashtra (-36%). Eastern Uttar Pradesh, too, has seen a 33% decline in rainfall from the LPA.
The IMD defines deficient monsoon rains as below 90% of the LPA of 89 centimetres of showers recorded between 1951 and 2000. Private weather forecaster Skymet also revised its monsoon forecast on July 31, predicting showers at 98% of the LPA for season, from 102% of LPA predicted in April.