Shrinking reservoirs in India, Iraq, Morocco and Spain could lead to taps running dry soon, sparking another “Day Zero” water crisis, an organisation that developed a satellite early warning system for the world’s 5 lakh dams said on Wednesday. The World Resources Institute said that water levels in reservoirs in these countries can fall for several reasons, including drought, water mismanagement and climate change.
The term “Day Zero” has gained significance since the water crisis in South Africa came to the fore. The term refers to the day on which municipal water supply in the country’s Cape Town city, which is facing a drought, would be switched off, as reservoir levels fall below 13.5% of capacity.
The World Resources Institute said satellite images showed that the peak water level in Madhya Pradesh’s Indira Sagar reservoir in 2017 was 33% lower than average. This was the result of poor rains in the region, the organisation said.
The lack of water in the reservoir also impacted its ability to release it to the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, the report said. The Indira Sagar reservoir supplied only 34% of the water that was due to the Sardar Sarovar reservoir in 2017. This affected the ability of the Gujarat dam to produce electricity, as the structure requires 110.8 metres of water to produce power, but had only 105.5 metres as of March 15 this year.
In March, the Gujarat government stopped water supply from the Sardar Sarovar Dam for irrigation, and said the remaining stock of water would be used for drinking purposes.
Water storage in 91 major reservoirs of the country in the week that ended on March 15 was at 32% of their total storage capacity, the Central Water Commission said. This was 12% lower than the storage in the same period in 2017 and almost 10% lower than the average of the past 10 years.
The BBC had in February listed 11 cities that were at risk of running out of water. Bengaluru was the only Indian city to make the list, but a survey of 28 cities across 14 states and one Union Territory found Indian homes on an average got water supply for only about 3.3 hours in a day.
The surface area of Morocco’s Al Massira dam, the country’s second-largest reservoir, has shrunk by over 60% in the last three years, the World Resources Institute said. “While the reservoir’s levels keep decreasing, demand for its water keeps increasing,” the report said. “Morocco’s urban water demand may increase by 60 to 100% in most large cities by 2050.”
The reservoir impounded by Iraq’s Mosul dam has shrunk by more than 60% over the last three years, satellite images show. The institute blamed Turkey’s Southeast Anatolia Project and its 22 dams and 19 hydro power plants across the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – on which millions of Iraqis rely for drinking water, irrigation, power and transportation – as the main reason for the reduced flow of rivers into Iraq.
In Spain, the surface area of the Buendia dam has shrunk by more than 60% over the last five years, the report said. It said that Spain suffered its worst drought in 60 years in 2006, the last time the water levels in the reservoir were so low. “ Experts say that droughts will likely become more frequent and severe in this region, and water stress is projected to increase in many parts of Spain by 2040,” the institute added.