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Even as residents of Hubli-Dharwad and Belgaum hold protests and raise hue and cry over shortage supply of drinking water, nearly half of the water drawn for these cities is going down the drain by way of leakage, pilferage and illegal connections.
Water shortage has led to an increase in exploitation of ground water by those who can afford to dig borewells. On the other, it has offered roaring business to those who sell water tanks as low-income groups tend to store whatever water is supplied. Although 96 million litres a day (MLD) of water is drawn from Malaprabha and Neerasagar reservoirs for the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad, only 45 MLD reaches the consumers.
Interestingly, several wards of the twin cities have not received water for a week in a stretch. With the municipal authorities failing to supply water, residents of these cities had no option but to depend on ground water.
The situation is no different in Belgaum where the consumers get only 19 MLD of water out of the 47.2 MLD drawn from Rakkasakoppa and Hidkal reservoirs. With this, each consumer gets 71 litres of water a day in Belgaum, 70 litres in Dharwad and 66 litres in Hubli.
Acute surface water shortage and inept supply agencies are fuelling a boom in non-regulated groundwater markets in the state. The dependence on groundwater has risen to 51%, 30% and 37% in Hubli, Dharwad and Belgaum respectively.
According to a study conducted on the water status and emerging trends by a team led by Chief Ministers Advisor K.V. Raju, who is also the faculty member of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, revealed that poor supply and distribution networks, high physical losses, low pressure, non-metered municipal connections and lower recovery of cost have been the major reasons for poor water supply in these cities.
A number of middle and high-income group families had dug borewells with Hubli accounting for 8,967 borewells, Dharwad for 2,716 and Belgaum for 14,500 borewells.
The dependency on ground water was as high as 51 per cent in Hubli with 19 MLD being harvested from borewells followed by Dharwad where it is 32 per cent (6 MLD), the study said.
If high-income groups resorted to digging borewells, low-income groups resorted to storing the water available, offering roaring business to sellers of water tanks. About 25 firms were into selling water tanks in Dharwad, 15 in Hubli and 50 in Belgaum, it said.
Water shortage has also provided good business to those who supply water through tankers. More than 50 tankers operate throughout the day supplying water in the twin cities.
Fifteen companies were involved in the bottled drinking water trade in these cities. They sell water worth Rs. 1 crore (0.21 MLD) in Dharwad, Rs. 2.4 crore (3.28 MLD) in Hubli and Rs. 3 crore (2.4 MLD) in Belgaum, the study said. Borewell-drilling companies too were making roaring business.
Exploitation of groundwater had resulted in degradation of water sources to the extent of 39 per cent in Hubli, 45 per cent in Dharwad and 22 per cent in Belgaum. In general, the groundwater was too hard in Hubli and Dharwad with high calcium content. In Belgaum, it was contaminated with fluoride, the study said.
The groundwater markets, along with the businesses of tankers, borewell drillers, packaged drinking water and accessories like pumps and storage gadgets add to the boom. The demand of water in Hubli and Dharwad is 90 MLD (million litres per day) and 45.16 MLD respectively. The agencies supply about 25.6 MLD and 19.2 MLD, exclusive of the 40% of the unaccounted-for water. Groundwater (9 MLD in
Hubli and 3 MLD in Dharwad) is also supplied. In Hubli, Dharwad and Belgaum, 42%, 45% and 22% of samples analyzed were classified as non-potable.