The country’s water reserves remained lower than a year earlier for a second straight week through Thursday, as monsoon deficit widened further following a drop in rainfall since early July. Seasonal showers declined 9% from the benchmark long-period average (LPA) up to August 13, lower than a deficit of 6% witnessed until August 6.
The storage across 91 water reservoirs touched 87.09 billion cubic metres (bcm) up to Thursday, down 13.2% from 100.36 bcm a year earlier and even lower than the normal 10-year average of 90.68 bcm. The current storage is 55% of the total live capacity of these reservoirs, lower than that of 64% a year earlier.
The quantum of rainfall in the current monsoon season has been 518.7 millimetres (mm) until Thursday, compared with the LPA for the period of 571.6 mm, 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 sowing of various summer 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.
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.
Last year, wide-spread dry-spells initially had affected water reserves and the storage level improved only from mid-July following a rebound in monsoon rains that helped sowing as well.
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 4.8% up to August 7 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 15 of the country’s 36 weather sub-divisions have witnessed normal showers so far. As many as 16 sub-divisions have received deficient rainfall, while five have seen excess shower. Marathwada has witnessed the worst rainfall deficit so far (-46%), followed by parts of Karnataka (-44%). Even eastern Uttar Pradesh has seen a 36% dip in rainfall from the normal levels.
“Near-normal rainfall activity is likely over central and northwest India during next three-four days. Subsequently, rainfall would increase considerably along the foot hills of the Himalayas, North-Eastern states and adjoining east India and Peninsula India,” the IMD said on Thursday.