May 21, 2018

Cape Town Is Not Alone: Bangalore Faces Impending Water Crisis

The rapidly growing city is exploring water reuse options, as groundwater levels dwindle

Bangalore, India, faces an impending water crisis
Bangalore, India, faces an impending water crisis

Bangalore, India—the city once famous for its hundreds of lakes—is under water stress. While the world is focused on Cape Town, South Africa, and its impending water crisis, the water security problems of the Indian tech hub are quietly escalating. Bangalore, known as India’s Silicon Valley for it’s rising tech sector, has experienced a massive population boom in the past decade and it’s water system cannot keep up. The population has nearly doubled from 5.7 million in 2001 to 10.5 million today, with a projected population of more than 2 million IT professionals by 2020, according to Wired.

The city’s water distribution system only covers the central area of the city, but the surrounding areas, which swelled during the city’s rapid growth, are not connected to city water and instead get their water supply from tankers. The tankers deliver the water sourced from boreholes, tapping into a quickly shrinking groundwater supply. As groundwater is continuously pulled with no replenishment, the groundwater level has sunk from a depth of 150 to 200 ft to 1,000 ft or more in some places. In a city covered in impervious areas and with a massive population continuously growing, the groundwater is not able to recharge fast enough.

As the crisis becomes more dire, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is taking steps to manage the crisis. According to BBC, BWSSB’s plan includes the Cauvery Water Supply Stage Five project and mandatory rainwater harvesting laws, the latter of which has faced little success. For the Cauvery Water Supply Stage Five project, the government is working to divert an additional 10 thousand million cu ft of water from the Cauvery River for drinking water in Bangalore. The river has long been a source of dispute with the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, but the project is anticipated to provide approximately 100 liters of water per person per day.

BWSSB has made it mandatory for people to construct rainwater harvesting facilities at their homes, but residents have often ignored this, opting instead to pay fines for non-compliance.

“Bangalore’s annual rainfall alone could give the city 2,740 million liters of water a day,” Vishwanath Srikantaiah, a water expert, told BBC regarding the benefit of rainwater harvesting.

Because of the massive size of the city and the overtaxed resources of BWSSB, the city will be putting more responsibility on the individual to maintain their own water supply moving forward. In the not so distant future, complexes housing 50 or more apartment will be required to construct their own water treatment plants, Tushar Girinath, chairman of BWSSB said.

The Cape Town Day Zero water crisis has called much needed attention to the state of water scarcity globally. Lack of water is not only a hypothetical, but increasingly becoming a reality for many cities. Cape Town is in ample company, including Bangalore, India; São Paulo, Brazil; Beijing, China; Cairo, Egypt; Jakarta, Indonesia; Istanbul, Turkey; Mexico City, Mexico; and London, England, according to a compilation of water scarce cities compiled by BBC. Closer to home, Miami and Los Angeles face the not-so-distant threat of water insecurity.