Bengaluru Water Crisis

by | May 14, 2024

Bengaluru water crisis

India’s Silicon Valley and IT capital of the country, Bengaluru is facing a severe water crisis due to rapid urbanization, population growth, and depletion of water resources. The city currently has access to 1,850 million liters per day (MLD) but requires at least 1,680 MLD more to meet its daily needs.

With a population of 1.40 crore, the city’s demand for freshwater is approximately 2,632 million liters per day (MLD). It currently uses 1,372 MLD of groundwater, nearly half of its water requirements, in addition to the 1,460 MLD of Cauvery water supplied by BWSSB.

More demand for water has led to dried-up borewells and low groundwater levels, which are causing people to face water supply cuts. This situation affects Bangalore and other metro cities as well. 

To understand and address this water crisis in Bangalore, it’s important to understand what factors are leading to this water scarcity and how the government ensures sustainable access to water among citizens, especially when the situation spikes in summer.

What caused the water shortage in Bengaluru?

Several factors were responsible for the water crisis in Bengaluru, here are few:

1. Climate change and erratic Rainfall Patterns:

During last year’s monsoon season, Karnataka received 18% rainfall, below normal rain, the lowest rainfall since 2015. Even the post-monsoon period was of no help to the state. This erratic rainfall is the cause of climate change and has adversely affected Bangalore rains. 

The city relies on rainfall for its underground water supply, and as underground water runs out, Bangalore relies on more unreliable rainwater. Environmentalists blame climate change for these erratic rainfall patterns, which bring a sense of worry among people.

2. Falling reservoir levels:

Another direct consequence of low rainfall is a low level of water in key reservoirs. These include Krishna Raj Sagara Dam and Thippagonadahalli Reservoir.

Recent Water Commission data shows that Karnataka reservoirs are only 26% full. Instead of nearly 8.8 billion cubic meters of water expected in Karnataka’s reservoirs, only 6.5 billion of it is present, which is depleting fast. The low rain has forced people to draw more water from these reservoirs even before the start of the summer season.

3. Increased water demand:

There’s no doubt that every year people shift to Bangalore to fulfill their dreams. However, it seems like the city is not prepared for this. The water shortage has increased water demand, and sustaining their demands is difficult. 

The total domestic demand for water is 1890 MLD; this exceeds what the Cauvery piped water link can supply. This leads to people’s dependence on borewells and tankers. 

Cutting down trees, overexploiting natural resources, and encroachment of lakes have made it even harder to find water in the city.

4. Depletion of groundwater:

The landscape of Bengaluru has changed drastically over the years, with the city now relying heavily on groundwater, a vital resource for agriculture, domestic and industrial uses.  

In the 1800’s, Bangalore had 1452 water bodies and 80% green cover. Today, it has reduced to 193 water bodies and less than 4% green cover. This reduction in water bodies has led to over-extraction and depletion of groundwater. 

Borewells, once reliable sources, now require deeper drilling due to the decline in groundwater levels. The city has seen over 6,000 out of 14,000 borewells drying up due to plummeting levels.

5. Depletion of native rivers:

Bengaluru gets most of its water from the Cauvery basin. In the past five decades, water in this region has sharply declined. There’s only 18% of forest cover left in that region, making water scarcity an even bigger issue in the city.

6. Water mismanagement and distribution:

The unequal distribution of water and the poor management by officials is leading to an even worse water shortage in Bangalore. Bangalore’s BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board) is supposed to provide water from the Cauvery River. Still, areas without connections rely on borewells or water tanks. The tanker water system is unregulated. This leads to inconsistent water quality and availability.

Additionally, there have been times when the water has diverted into drains, leading to much water wastage. The leakages in networks and unattended lines have also been proof of water mismanagement and distribution.

7. Pollution of water resources:

Contamination from industrial waste and untreated sewage causes water pollution. It has made water unfit to drink. The Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute conducted a study. According to the statement, about 85% of Bengaluru’s water bodies are polluted.The pollution comes from industrial waste, sewage, and solid waste dumping. A study found that Bengaluru’s water is unsafe due to sewage and waste dumping. This is adding more stress to the already depleting water resources. 

These water crises have severely impacted various sectors of the city, making it difficult to perform everyday activities.

Impacts of Bengaluru water crisis

1. Drinking water shortage:

Water, a basic human need, has become a rare commodity in Bangalore.The city is facing a severe drinking water crisis due to water scarcity. Offices have given work from home, and company board meetings have stopped offering bottled water and replaced it with juice because it is difficult to access water.

People are considering alternative hydration methods. The lack of Cauvery water supply and drought-related issues have exacerbated the situation, leading to people standing in long queues for water.

2. Impact on agriculture:

The current water crisis in Bangalore has significantly impacted the city’s agriculture. The scarcity of water directly impacts agricultural practices, leading to lower yields, crop failure, and losses for farmers. The water shortage makes access to irrigation water even more difficult, and farmers, farmers face difficulties in sustaining their crops. 

Additionally, Banglore grows paddy and sugarcane. These are water-excess crops. But, the absence of fresh water is impacting the cultivation of these crops.

3. Health issues:

The water shortage of clean water in Bnaglore has led to significant health risks to its people. Contaminated water sources, as a result of pollution and fewer treatment facilities, increase the probability of getting a waterborne disease. Diseases like cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid fever have been very common. 

Moreover, the scarcity of water for personal hygiene has led to the spread of infectious diseases. Addressing water crisis in Banglore is critical not only for ensuring access to safe drinking water but also for protecting the health and well-being of its people.

What government/ Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is doing to address this issue?

1. Awareness Campaigns:

The government has realized the best way forward. It is to raise awareness of the importance of water and educate people about it. 

The government has also launched four apps to assist residents in dealing with water shortage crisis. These apps enable citizens to volunteer for water leakage detection surveys, apply for borewell permission, and complain about water misuse. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has launched the ‘Save Blue and Live Green’ campaign. 

2. Reducing Water Consumption:

One of the simplest methods to prevent water scarcity is to reduce water consumption. Encouraging water-saving habits among residents and promoting the adoption of water-saving technologies. They urged residents to stop using drinkable water for non-essential things like washing vehicles. The BWSSB has urged the bulk users to reduce their water consumption by 20%.

3. Promotion of Usage of Treated water:

Only 30% of Bangalore’s wastewater gets reused. But people must start using this treated water for other purposes such as construction or domestic use. This relives the pressure on freshwater sources.

The government is providing treated water at subsidized rates for various non-drinking purposes. This shift can help in the long run. The government is also encouraging the people to use BWSSB portal to request water from tertiary treatment plants, which can help areas in need.

4. Conservation of Water:

 The government is running many initiatives to conserve water. The board is making rainwater harvesting compulsory. They are also installing water recycling projects. They are trying their best to preserve water. Authorities have instructed the gated societies to install rainwater systems. They will go on their terraces. This will make water more available.

5. Fines for misusing water

 the government has been very stringent in maintaining potable water. The BWSSB has issued an order. It bans using potable water in the city for cleaning vehicles, building roads, and for fun. The fine is 5000 for the first penalty. An extra 500 per day applies if it continues.

6. Groundwater replenishment

40% of the city relies on groundwater. The BWSSB is adding 1300 MLD of water to 14 lakes to help them. They are also prioritizing rainwater recharge through dormant borewells across the city.

The government and BWSSB are working on many projects to meet the city’s needs. The most important one is:

Cauvery Water Supply Water Scheme Stage 5

The Cauvery project, phase 5 is all about providing clean drinking water to 110 villages that . were recently added to the Metropolitan Bengaluru municipal corporation by the government of Karnataka. This project is all set to start in June 2024 and is expected to cost around Rs 5,550 crore

The project aims to ensure that 12 lakh people have access to 110 liters of safe drinking water daily. The project also includes a Water treatment plant (WTP) that can clean up to 775 million liters daily. It will also work on an underground drainage system and aims to build 13 sewage treatment plants. These plants will treat 100 MLD of sewage water daily. 

This project will let the government reduce Bangalore’s water shortage. It will also relieve the people.


India is determined to avoid the fate of the Indus Valley civilization. It aims to prosper in the coming era of climate change. To do so, it needs to be able to put its thirsty cities first. Water is available in Bangalore due to sustainable water management. It also is due to collective action. Taking proper measures in the right direction gives hope for the city. But, we as citizens must not forget: saving water is not a choice. It’s a necessity.

Bhuwan Bhatia

Bhuwan Bhatia

Bhuwan Bhatia, an engineering graduate with a diverse background, has been passionate about entrepreneurship since age 13. Founder of edtech startup Technoshaala, Bhuwan now focuses on leading his innovative water management startup, FLOTAA, in Kanpur to create sustainable solutions.
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