Water Supply Reservoirs Running Dry in Chennai, India

The major water supply reservoirs in Chennai, India are running dry, leaving the city with nearly 5 million residents at an intense water shortage.

What We Know:

  • Chennai’s four reservoirs have nearly dried up entirely due to a late monsoon season, which is normally what replenishes the reservoirs each year, little rain and unusually high temperatures.
  • The crisis is the worst the city has ever seen in 30 years. The city has lost nearly 150 water bodies while many of the 3,896 others have diminished.


  • The largest of the four main reservoirs is Lake Puzhal. Below is Lake Puzhal before and during the drought. The other reservoirs show similar water loss.

  • After a 200 day dry spell, the city saw some rain Thursday, June 20, but not nearly enough. The city likely won’t have another good rain for at least another 100 days.
  • Additionally, the city does not have a perennial river to supply water in a timely, clean manner from outside the city.
  • Wealthier residents have resorted to trucking in water from nearby providences. Pipe water supply to homes is less than 10% of what it used to be and Metrowater tankers can take three to four weeks to supply water to homes.
  • People in the city have adjusted by working from home or bringing water to work and school. The Economic Times explains that Chennai needs a more permanent solution, considering government policies have somewhat allowed for this crisis.
  • Decades-long “policy paralysis” is partially to blame, with policy that allows for massive privatization of water sources by big companies and private communities.

This massive water shortage has caught national attention as protests and crime arise over access to water in Chennai.