Tamil Nadu and its capital Chennai are faced with an acute water crisis that has triggered instances of violence and has forced establishments to find new ways to conserve water.

The Porur Lake in Chennai, which is considered one of the main sources of water for the city, is almost at its lowest ever level and the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board is now banking on water from desalination plants and stone quarries in Kanchipuram district, India Today had reported.

The water crisis has affected almost every sector, including information technology, hospitals and restaurants. Some IT companies in Chennai have asked employees to work from home, The News Minute reported last week. “We were asked to work from our homes for two weeks in May when the water crisis was extreme,” said Vishnu Priya, who works for an IT company located on Old Mahabalipuram Road. Vishnu Priya said cafeteria outlets were closed due to lack of potable water, while some outlets served food in disposable plates to save water.

At some IT offices, bathrooms only on alternate floors are operational. “It really depends on how the water supply is from the tanker lorries,” an unidentified employee of Wipro said. “If the supply is on schedule, then there will not be any restrictions, if not these restrictions come into play.”

Hospitals have also been trying to conserve water by postponing non-essential surgeries. “A three-bed operation theatre alone requires 6,000 litres of water daily,” said Deepal, a gastro surgeon, according to Outlook. “So we are advising patients to postpone their surgeries if they are of a non-emergency kind as we do not want them confined to a hospital bed and suddenly find no water in their bathrooms.”

Several hotels in the city have decided to not serve meals for lunch to reduce the use of water, according to The Hindu. Over the past few weeks, the water expenditure of hotels went up by 25% as private tankers limited their supply.

M Ravi, president of Chennai Hotels Association, said several hotels now use banana leaves instead of plates to save water. “We are also planning to offer finger bowls to wash hands instead of buckets to save as much water,” he said. “Hotels with up to 100 seats capacity need a 12 kilolitre tanker load of water daily. There is much delay in getting water supply,” he said.

The water crisis has also affected local residents quite badly, even causing fights connected with water. A 28-year-old woman was stabbed by her neighbour at their apartment in Shankar Nagar in Chennai on Thursday as a fight broke out over the use of water, The New Indian Express had reported.

‘Not as alarming as projected’

Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s Managing Director TN Hariharan claimed the situation is not as alarming as being projected, reported The Indian Express. He said the regular supply of water from Chennai metro water was 830 million litres a day and it has now come down to 525 million litres a day.

“Usual water sources such as Red Hills, Sholavaram and Chemabarambakkam lakes have fully dried up,” he said. “But we are maintaining supply with the help of other sources, we will be able to manage the crisis until November.”

Opposition and High Court take note

Last week, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham chief MK Stalin had demanded the resignation of the state’s minister of municipal administration because of the severe water crisis. He had urged Chief Minister Palaniswami to take constructive steps to resolve the water shortage. The Madras High Court on June 13 had also asked the state government for a report on desalination and water availability, while coming down very heavily on the state.