Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Pune Water Supply (Crisis!) – Past, Present and Future

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 4, 2012

I have been writing about the Pune Water Supply issue on and off on twitter, but haven’t gotten down to writing a detailed blog post. I have realized that I am repeating myself in many discussions – hence here is a brief compilation of basic introductory facts and some questions & points to ponder. This is a very complex issue and I am not an expert in this area. I have just compiled various data from different information sources, and added a few thoughts and points to ponder.

Brief History of Pune Water Supply

The City of Pune grew around the Mutha River and for many centuries, the river was the primary source of water. In the 18th century Pune started witnessing rapid growth as the de facto capital of the Maratha Empire during the Peshwas. The first major water supply system was built by Nanasaheb Peshwa in the 1750s (The contractor for this project was Sardar Tulshibagwale). This consisted of a water storage lake at Katraj and a system of aqueducts to bring the water to Shaniwar Wada and neighbouring area tanks (‘Hauds’). This system was quite robust and remnants of it are still visible today. This system came to rescue of Punekars in the aftermath of the Panshet Flood where the two main dams were destroyed. I had written an extensive blog post about the Panshet Flood Disaster last year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that incident:  
12 July 1961 – Panshet: A day that changed Pune

Towards the end of the 18 century, other Peshwas and their Sardars such as Nana Phadnavis, Raste added more aqueducts and storage tanks in the city. The British took control of Pune in 1817 and started expanding towards the east side, building the Pune Cantonment. The first water storage facility built here was a small bund near the present Bund Garden. In 1867, the Khadakwasla Dam was built. Visvesvarayya is credited for designing and building an advanced type of sluice gate here in the early 1900s.

Post independence, a much bigger dam was planned at Panshet. Construction started in 1955 and was almost complete by 1961. While filling up the dam, some cracks were observed and a last minute effort to save the dam failed. This resulted in a massive flood in Pune. The Khadakwasla and Panshet dams were both destroyed and some urgent alternative arrangements were needed for the next few years, until these dams were repaired. These included, using the old Peshwa era Katraj aqueduct, using the water from the Mulshi Dam (via the Mula river – a small bund was constructed near Aundh on Mula to store the water and it was pumped from there.).

As the Pune city and neigbouring agriculture requirements were growing, two new dams were built – Varasgaon was completed in 1994 and Temghar was completed in 2000. Pavana dam, that supplies to PCMC area was completed in the 1990s.

Present Water Storage – Pune and neighborhood dams

In this section, I will discuss the water storage capacities of the dams that supply to the Pune Metro region, and other neighborhood dams that have (or can) supply water to this area in future.

But before that, some basic conversions between commonly used terms:

1 TMC = 1 Thousand Million Cubic Feet =  about 28.317 million cubic meters

1 Cubic Meter = 1000 Liters, 1 Cubic Meter = 35.31 Cubic Feet.

Note – TMC is an old British system measurement. The Maharashtra Water Resources Department uses ‘1 Million Cubic Meters’ as their unit of measure.

Dam  Storage in Million Cubic Meters, (TMC)

Khadakwasla       56  (2)
Panshet              302 (10.7)
Varasgaon          363 (12.8)
Temghar            105 (3.7)

Mulshi                 523 (18.5)
Pavana                241 (8.5)
Bhama-Askhed   217 (7.7)

[For a more detailed information about all dams in Pune district and Maharashtra, go to: (source for above data) … This website publishes daily/weekly/monthly reports about dam capacity, current storage, comparative statistics for last year, etc. ].

The water from Khadakwasla dam is brought to the primary Parvati Pumping Station via the Mutha Canal and Pipelines. From here, it is distributed to various parts of the city through various intermediate storage tanks.


Last few years, every April, we are finding ourselves in a ‘water crisis’ mode. A sight of tankers is an ominous indication. I remember Pune in the 1980s and 1990s – where water shortage/crisis was literally unheard of. What has changed? I am not an expert in this area, and a detailed discussion of this issue is not in the scope of this introductory blog post. But here are a few points to ponder:

– Pune has witnessed a very high growth rate over the past two decades and the population of the metro area has nearly tripled since 1990. Water requirements have also grown in this proportion (if not a bit higher).

– Current demand for the city (not including PCMC) is around 14-15 TMC. Pune requirements are supplied by the 4 dams: Panshet, Varasgaon, Temghar and Khadakwasla. Khadakwasla is really a staging and distribution point for the two big dams upstream. (PCMC needs around 6-7 TMC and is supplied by the Pavana dam.)

– For the past decade, the storage capacity across the 4 Pune dams has remained nearly the same.. around 29 TMC. Evaporation losses are roughly 1-1.5 TMC. Also note that silting (mud flowing in each year from the water run-off) over the years reduces the dam storage capacities. Regular de-silting is very important.

– Note that these 4 dams are not exclusively dedicated for Pune (like the dams for Mumbai). They also supply to the agriculture belt south-east of Pune. So while it appears that the storage is twice of what Pune needs, that’s not really the case. I am not going to get into the debate of allocation issues, etc. here. But suffice to say that a better and more transparent allocation policy and process between the state and local governments will help.

– At the current / projected growth rate, Pune’s requirements may approach 25 TMC and even more, in a decade. Then what!? Well, that’s the billion dollar question! What are the options / alternatives available?

– It is estimated that currently, 20-30% of water that is supplied to Pune is wasted via leakages, etc. Distribution needs to improve to cut down on the losses, and keep them at the minimum.

– Allocation between Pune requirements (Drinking) vs. Agriculture will again have to be revisited.

– Bhama-Askhed may be able to provide some additional supply to the city, but it may also be needed for the fast growing Chakan-Talegaon area.

– Some water from Mulshi could be potentially diverted to Pune? But that will mean reduction in electricity generation (this dam is owned by Tata Power and the water is used to generate hydro-power). An even more tougher option would be bring in water from dams further out via pumping (e.g. Bhatghar, etc.) idea about the feasibility of this option. 

– Other water conservation methods – rain-water-harvesting, etc are also needed..but these alone will not be adequate. Tapping ground water through bore-wells is already on the rise, and this can be a good source. However, excessive reliance on bore-wells is not a good idea – the water table will keep shrinking and will fall  deeper and deeper each year. Look at what has happened in Bangalore.

– Explore feasibility of building one (or more) dams further upstream of Panshet and Varasgaon. Again this will take a long time, even if feasible.

Note each alternative will involve many compromises – unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. 



33 Responses

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  1. Great article! Puts together a lot of the issues that affect the city’s water supply. None of the alternatives presented for the future look easy or adequate though. Probably means we’re going to be in “crisis” mode each year.

    At the very least, it’ll be good to have a publicly available watchdog along the lines of that monitors ground water levels and quality.

  2. Vivek Tuljapurkar said, on April 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Amit – Very interesting read. Great analysis and insights.

    I recall somebody telling me that Pune is the best irrigated city in India (with the possible exception of Cherapunji). Could this be true?

  3. Amit Paranjape said, on April 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks Atul. Don’t think is a watchdog. It is a website of the Maharashtra Govt Water (irrigation) Department.

  4. Amit Paranjape said, on April 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks Vivek.. Very much doubt that..but no idea. One thing is for sure – as recently as 2000, when most major cities in India had water problems, Pune’s demand was 6-7 TMC and total (accessible) supply was 28 TMC! Talk about water luxury! Now clearly that gap is narrowing and problems are adding up.

  5. gargi20 said, on April 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Very interesting article Amit. It is frightening to think about the sheer scope of the failure of town planning authorities and their encouragement to indiscriminate expansion of the city.
    But why are we ignoring the elephant in the room – the political party which has practically ‘owned’ the water resources in the state since 1999, and should bear responsibility for much of the current crisis.?

  6. bvhk said, on April 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Rainwater harvesting should go a long way in easing the troubles. It will not only make more water available, but also replenish the water table and the sum effect will ease out the problem. But – getting Punekars to change!!! Couldn’t enforce the helmet rule..this is a distant dream. Struggling to convince our society of 12 flats to go for some water conservation/RWH and not being able to do so.

  7. gandhali jadhav said, on April 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Very informative .

  8. Unmesh Mayekar (@UnmeshM) said, on April 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Follow the money – as they say. Its interesting how the “Water Tankers” never run out of sources of water when the city is reeling under water cuts. Who owns these Tankers? Shouldn’t the water they supply be put to tests? Is it? How much of this crisis is “real”?

  9. Sojwal Chitnis said, on April 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Good & concise overview. I am not sure to what extent it would help, but there don’t seem to be any efforts at all for recycling water..there are quite a few uses for treated & recycled sewage water, which should bring down somewhat the demand for fresh water. Of course, this is just one of the small things that need to be done in the long term.

  10. […] Pune Water Supply- Past, Present & Future Related posts:Cricket coverage on TV – Channels are milking the game dryThank you Pune Municipal […]

  11. Amit Paranjape said, on April 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm


  12. Amit Paranjape said, on April 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Good questions Unmesh!

  13. Amit Paranjape said, on April 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Sojwal, BVHK: Thanks for the comments. Rain Water Harvesting, Recycling and other water conservation methods will help and should be implemented. However the rate at which the demand is increasing, these may not be enough, and in time.

  14. Akki D (@akkiman) said, on April 5, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Great article. There is also a pending issue with a leakage in the varasgaon dam. A lot of water stored here is wasted (note that the varasgaon dam is the biggest source of water for the PMC)

  15. Narayan said, on April 5, 2012 at 1:51 am

    a few thoughts:

    during my brief exposure to water distribution in israel, i was struck by how seriously they took waste water treatment (and how heavily they were investing in desalination, not an option for pune unfortunately). if you think about it, water is a resource that is available in abundant quantities but almost entirely inaccessible to humans (“If all the world’s water were fit into a gallon jug, the fresh water available for us to use would equal only about one tablespoon.” from and of the little that is accessible, we make it unusable after a single use, waiting for nature to “distill” it for reuse.

    i think it would help if you could put together even a rough-cut mathematical model of water demand and supply. i’m sure supply and demand are both highly seasonal and not necessarily matched, making the problem of sizing reservoirs important.

    you refer to “leakages”. are you sure this isn’t just poor people tapping into the system illegally? or is this really water that goes to waste?

  16. Pavan Srinath said, on April 5, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Hi Amit,

    Great post! At the outset, let me say that I am familiar only with Bangalore’s water supply situation and this is the first time that I’ve read anything about Pune.

    A couple of thoughts:

    One, TMC is a convenient method of measuring storage capacity, especially of dams, and when talking about water *supply*, it’s more useful to think of things in terms of Million Litres per Day or MLD. If I assume that your TMC #s are equivalent to consumption per year, the MLD #s turn out to be ~465MLD for PCMC and ~1110MLD for the rest of the city. I’m curious to learn more about this number, and whether it talks of only piped water supply for household consumption, etc. I’d suggest that if you’re interested, do verify some of these numbers, as they seem to be quite high. (The numbers I’ve come across for Bangalore are smaller.) I’m sure that the conversion between a water storage measure and water supply measure has a lot of nuances that I glossed over in changing units and dividing by 365. 🙂

    Two, while thinking historically, it’s kind of easy to think of water sources as largely surface based. While we have had an ancient and splendid system of tanks and canals, water that has supplied households (even in cities) has predominantly been ground water. Piped water is a far more recent thing, going back to around a century depending on what city you are talking about. Reservoirs and lakes often served the very useful purpose of recharging our dynamic water table, and people would use water from personal and community wells. Now, I wouldn’t presume to estimate the prevalence of well-based water supply in Pune before piped water came along, but I would suggest that you investigate the matter a little more closely.

    Three, if one interprets ‘water conservation’ as ‘water use reduction’, then in a growing city I agree that it’s largely wishful thinking. While it’s true that rain water harvesting can do only so much, sewage treatment does hold a lot of potential. Technological solutions to the problem of sewage treatment (and decentralised options, even) are becoming more and more feasible, the problem remains mostly psychological, political and administrative. Just a switch in our view of sewage from “pollutant” to “another source of water” can make a helluva lot of difference.


  17. Parag Vishwanath Dandekar said, on April 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Good informative article. Apart from identifying new resources an effort to conserve water by 1recircualtion after due ttreatment, 2 rechargeing of ground water by rain water harvesting 3 educting the population to use water carefully and at alesser level will go a long way in improving the situation.

  18. Amit Paranjape said, on April 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks Akshay. I believe the water leakage from Varasgaon dam is not wasted.. it just flows through the spillway, into Khadakwasla.

  19. rohitpatwardhan said, on April 6, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Great article Amit, given that our leaders are too busy ‘harvesting’ the Pune real estate it is great to have an unbiased big picture view of the current resource situation. I wonder how the power situation compares to the water for Pune.

  20. Amit Paranjape said, on April 6, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Thanks Rohit. The power situation is much better for now… fingers-crossed! Though other than Mumbai and Pune rest of Maharashtra has quite a bit of load-shedding 😦

  21. Yogi said, on April 6, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Nice analysis Amit. U must have spent quite some time to gather all the information….

  22. manishachitale said, on April 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Good Informative post. Looks like water will bring water to our eyes in future.

  23. Amit Paranjape said, on April 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks Manisha.. Yes, future looks tough as far as water is concerned!

  24. Amit Paranjape said, on April 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks Yogi.

  25. Chetan Pandit said, on May 3, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Dear Amit,

    As you yourself have observed, this is a complex issue. Here are some more points as “food for thought”.

    1: Just as a bank account is not a source of money, likewise dams are not a source of water. Dams only store the water flowing in the river, for future use. The water resources available to an area are determined by the rainfall in the upstream catchment. A part of this rainfall is available as runoff in the river and as ground water. Building another dam will not increase this quantity. To use the money analogy once again, if a family is short of finances for their monthly expenditure, opening a new bank account is not the solution.
    Moreover, a city can not on their own decide to intercept and use all the water resource available to it. Even if some water in Mula-Mutha system is presently flowing to areas downstream of Pune, it is not necessary that it can be stored and used. The riparian rights of the downstream people will have to be factored in.

    2: Indian “thinkers” in general, and Pune in particular, suffer from three unfortunate traits.

    a) a deep seated guilt-complex “we are all squandering away natural resources”. चंगळवादी जीवन शैली मुळे नैसर्गिक साधन संपत्ती अनिर्बंधपणे ओरबाडत आपण वसुंधरेला घोर विनाशा कडे नेत आहोत is the kind of observations commnly read in Pune news papers. Facts are, however, otherwise. Assuming the present supply to Pune as 15 TMC and population 60 lakhs, the supply in liters per capita per day (LPCD) works out to 190 LPCD. This is by no means चंगळवादी जीवन शैली and is well within limits for Pune climate. Is actually on the lower side if one factors in the leakages in the distribution system.

    b) Comparing the incomparables, e.g. comparing supply level in Pune with that in villages, or in Copenhagen. There is a difference in the lifestyle in cities and in villages, and this can not be wished away. Similarly, water requirement in a cold climate like Copenhagen can not be compared with that in a warm climate like Pune. But such comparisons strengthen the pre-existing “we are using too much” complex, and divert attention.

    c) A belief that all problems – whether water shortage or electricity shortage or traffic jams – have some simply and inexpensive solution. Usually this “solution” does not go beyond homilies about conservation, and fanciful ideas of how much water can be thus saved. As already explained, with 200 LPCD Pune is already using water well within limits and there is very little scope for further saving by citizens. Hereafter, the supply will have to be augmented. How ? No easy answers. When all the cake is apportioned, if one person is to be given a larger slice, some others will have to be given a smaller slice. But a major deficiency in our water governance is – there is a legal provision for resolving inter state disputes – the “Inter State Water Dispute Tribunals Act”. But there is no provision for resolving inter user group disputes (City dwellers versus farmers; all human users versus environmental requirements; etc.). This problem will have to be addressed head on, immediately.

    Also, ideas like trans-basin transfer of water (incorrectly called inter linking of rivers) will have to be resorted to. Unfortunately, there is stiff resistance from pseudo environmentalists to any infrastructure building. This too will have to be addressed head on.

    Chetan Pandit

  26. Amit Paranjape said, on May 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Chetan, Thanks for your details comments.

  27. narayan said, on May 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    the dam-bank-account analogy is interesting but i think it fails beyond a certain point. in a country with highly seasonal rainfall, i would expect that an inadequately dammed river — this is a term i just invented but i’m sure people who study such things have a term for it — will still discharge some of the rainfall it gathers into the sea. if a river is adequately dammed, you can capture and store water temporarily during the season when the inflow is at its peak and use the water by its controlled release during off-peak seasons. therefore, adding a dam on a river that is already adequately dammed only shifts the point along the river where the water is temporarily stored. in such a case, it is analogous to adding another bank account on an income stream that is already fully exploited.

    so the key question is this: are indian rivers adequately dammed? i hope someone can answer that question. i wish i could the reference but i remember reading that a large part of rainfall just ends up finding its way back to the sea without have served any human purpose along the way.

  28. Aakanksha said, on July 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I am new to Pune and witnessing the water prb here. I happen to notice the sense towards optimal usage of water is missing among civilians here as well just like my experience in Delhi. I am more of a person born in the desert land of India and we learned to value this resource dearly so water wastage does not skip my attention.

    Undoubtedly the mass migration towards pune is going to worsen the situation but out of the overall consumption of water, how much does the residential usage score over the industrial and commercial establishments water requirements. If industries and commercial establishments reuse the water do we still need such huge volumes of fresh water supply to support the city? Or are the measures of water reuse just myths.

  29. Ashwin Panemangalore said, on July 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

    For long we Indians have viewed water as a free unlimited resource More so Punekars The primary need is to have a transparent policy in the water allocation from the dams A SCADA system which measures the quantum of distribution from source is a must Thereafter, there is a dire need to mkae consumers pay for the water they use through an elaborate metering system much like electricity We dont need to compare Copenhagen with Pune Amravati has such a system and the consumption there is 104 Lit per day per head as compared to Pune which is nearly thrice as much See link So the need to implement the scheme pending for over 4 years is urgent

    Much of Pune data is warped because of losses in distribution indiscriminate usage and wastage by builders commercial establishments and in the uninformed sections of society ( where water, twice as much as needed, is stored and then thrown away the next day when supply resumes) Education is necessary to spread awareness of this ill of wastage Strangely, Pune which has activists on many fronts have none for water

  30. Amit Paranjape said, on July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for your comments.

  31. V.M. Joglekar said, on August 2, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Really Good Article. Regarding Water requirement near about the situation is similar in all cities of India. This need can be drastically reduce by recirculation of water by proper Sewage Treatment Plants. In fact out of 100% water requirement i household, 80% is immidiately discharged in sewage, by way of flushinh, washing etc. This water also we carry to Sewage Treatment plants or direcly release in rivers by polluting it. This affects as
    1) Arranging more water, keeping other people thursty
    2) Expenses in Pumping and Carrying
    3) Expenses in Water Treatment
    4) Expenses in Distribution system
    5) Immidiately within hours we release water in sewage lines, which costs sewage lines
    6) Maintenance and desilting of sewage lines
    7) Expenses on Sewage Treatment Plants
    8) More worring is only about 30-40% sewage is treated in India, other all left to polluting rivers

    It will be better if we pressurese the local agencies for Proper Sewage Treatment and Recirculation of water, which will save lot of money and extra water can be reached to the extra industries and thursty people.

  32. Nachiket Paranjape said, on August 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Lucid explanation..very nice!

  33. Amit Chaurasia said, on May 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Amit,
    An excellent write-up !

    I stumble upon your blog everytime I get worried about water supply in and around my place. The future looks scary not only for the city of Pune but also for population at large across the country. Most of us are playing a waiting game and I am afraid all we will end up doing is to blame the powers be.

    Taking some initiative in this regard has been my endeavor since some time. Are there any organization which is working in this regard right from policy level to ensure we are well prepared to meet the eventual situation better.

    Amit Chaurasia.

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