Dr. Rajiv. K. Gupta, I.A.S
Water Supply Department
The Water Supply Department of the Government of Gujarat has developed a state-wide water supply grid to manage the problem of water scarcity in the state. This grid was developed and extended over the last decade to augment the local resources and to quench the thirst for water in the areas facing water scarcity.
Gujarat faces scarcity of water in certain regions that are arid and receive less rainfall. Almost 70% of Gujarat's fresh water resources are located only in 30% of its geographical area restricted to South Gujarat. Frequent droughts accentuate this scarcity of water in the state. The State thus undertook a sustainable measure to combat this problem by developing a 'State-wide Water Supply Grid'. This water supply grid consists of water supply schemes based in Narmada and other regional water supply schemes.
With this grid, the government is able to supply water to far-off places through an inter-basin bulk water transfer. This is an enormous project, with a spread of 1,20,769 km. It aims to serve 75% of Gujarat's population.
In the year 2012, late arrival of monsoons and scarce rainfall accentuated the water scarcity in the state. Gujarat had recorded 798 mm rainfall, which is only 72% of its annual rainfall. The region of Saurashtra received only 366 mm rainfall, which is only 56% of the annual average. Due to this, even the dams in Saurashtra and Kutch had dried up. The Bhadar Dam which serves Rajkot city and Ranjit Sagar Dam which serves Jamnagar had also dried up. This created a situation of extreme water scarcity among a huge population. In this scenario, it was the state-wide water supply grid that helped the entire state supplement its water needs. It became a lifeline for drinking water supply to the regions of Kutch and Saurashtra, as the revolutionary water supply grid remained the only source of drinking water supply in the region.
This grid was an integral part of the Water Supply Department's mission to combat the droughts in the state through various measures. A contingency plan of Rs 133 crore out of a total of Rs 185 crore was earmarked for the villages of Kutch and Saurashtra alone, as these were identified as the most severely affected areas. The villages that were connected to the water supply grid started receiving adequate water. For the villages that couldn't directly be connected to the grid, alternative measures were devised, such as drilling new tube wells, installing RO plants, and providing water tankers.
In a comparative study of water supply in Kutch, it can be observed that scarcity of water has reduced by a considerable amount over the decade. In 2001, due to droughts, a large area of the state needed water supply through tankers. In Kutch alone, 350 villages demanded this service. This scenario has drastically changed over the past decade. In 2013, even in scarcity of natural water supply, only 56 villages needed the State's assistance in form of water tankers.
This is a sustainable investment by the Water Supply Department, which has saved the State the additional expenditure on water tankers to drought affected areas.
The State's Water Supply Department has taken another major initiative towards strengthening the water supply network. A new offtake has been created on the Dhrangadhra branch canal near Sadulka. Also, a new pumping station and a new pipeline between Sadulka and Morbi were developed. This has helped to provide an additional 150 million liters of water per day to Rajkot, Jasmnagar, Porbandar and Kutch districts. This was the first time that the Narmada water was supplied beyond Panchdevda in Jamnagar district.
Furthermore, 36 pumping stations were augmented to enhance the water supply capacity. The average supply from the Grid to Saurashtra and Kutch increased from 850 million liters per day in 2012 to 1340 million liters per day in 2013.
Strengthening water supply in scarce regions also served the cattle of the region. A regular supply of drinking water was arranged for 1480 cattle troughs in Kutch.
In urban areas that faced water shortage due to drying up of Bhadar-I dam, water was supplied through creating of new water tapping regions, reverse pumping and laying new pipelines. With this, the water supply from the Grid to urban areas of Saurashtra and Kutch increased from 208 MLD in 2012 to 400 MLD in 2013.
Administrative set up was also strengthened to control the scarcity. A new zonal office was established at Junagadh which covered the districts of Junagadh, Amreli, Porbandar and Bhavnagar. New staff was deployed, which included hydrogeologists and patrolling teams. Water Infrastructure Protection Task Force was set up.
The state wide water supply grid has thus emerged as a revolutionary project by the Water Supply Department of the State. It is recorded as the most outstanding step to deal with providing the basic necessity of drinking water to the state.
The article is originally published in The Gujarat (Magazine), Vol-III, Issue-4.