Water levels drop in Rawal, Khanpur dams

Looming water crisis rings alarm bells in twin cities

Qaiser Shirazi January 20, 2024


Persistent drought over the last three months in Islamabad and Rawalpindi is leading to a daily decline in water levels in the crucial Rawal Dam and Khanpur Dam. Over the past month, there has been minimal water inflow into both dams, while a daily supply of seven million gallons of water continues.

Historically, December and January typically witnessed consistent rainfall in the region, with two or three days of rain per week. However, this year, from December 1st to January 20th, not a single drop of rain has been recorded.

The Meteorological Department has predicted a continued absence of rain until January 31, exacerbating concerns as Rawal Dam, with a storage capacity of 1,752 acre-feet, currently holds 1,745 acre-feet, resulting in a shortfall of 3.5 million gallons per day. Similarly, Khanpur Dam, with a capacity of 1,982 acre-feet, contains only 1,943 acre-feet, with a continuous supply of 30 to 35 acre-feet.

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The catchment areas around both dams, extending up to three kilometers from the inflow, are also dry, and the absence of snowfall in the Murree has further diminished water resources. This prolonged drought is sounding alarms for both agricultural and environmental concerns.

In response, the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) and the Department of Agriculture organised a "Istisqa" (prayer for rain), emphasising its critical importance. WASA MD Muhammad Tanveer expressed hope that the citizens' prayers would be answered.

Experts note that the continuous decrease in rainfall over the past three years, coupled with the dry season in the last two months, has led to a decline in the underground water level.

New tubes now extract water at a depth of 760 feet, whereas older tube wells, aged 20-25 years, previously supplying ample water at depths of 300 to 400 feet, have now run dry due to falling water levels.

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Despite a 70 per cent reduction in water consumption during winter, concerns persist. However, experts remain optimistic, anticipating February to bring relief with rainfall, refilling the dams and improving the underground water level. The Meteorological Department, however, remains firm in asserting that immediate rains are unlikely.

Agriculture Department Spokesperson Muhammad Haroon stressed the importance of rain in February for seasonal crops, including wheat and corn. He warned that the absence of rain in February could result in irreversible damage to crops, vegetables, and fruits, compensating for losses incurred during the dry months of December and January.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2024.


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