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Chennai, India, Is Running Out of Water. Other Cities Will Be Soon.

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The coastal city is the first major metropolitan area in India to deal with such an extreme water shortage, but several large cities around the world may soon face a similar crisis.

After weeks of soaring temperatures and drought, Chennai, India—the country’s sixth largest city—is facing a dire water shortage. The four reservoirs that provide the majority of the city’s water supply have dried up, forcing restaurants, businesses, and schools to close and leaving residents to wait in line for hours for water from municipal or private tankers.

The water crisis is hitting the region’s poor particularly hard; wealthy residents can pay the premiums for water from private tankers that those living in slums can’t afford.

Hundreds were arrested this week outside the municipal government‘s headquarters, where protesters gathered with empty water containers to blame the local authorities for mismanagement of the critical resource. The region relies on annual monsoons to replenish groundwater and reservoir supplies, but rain levels have been below average for several years, and the monsoon rains, which usually begin by June 1st, have yet to arrive. Chennai also receives some water from a desalination plant, according to Samrat Basak, the director of the World Resource Institute’s Urban Water Program in India, but the plant doesn’t produce enough water to supply the city’s entire population.

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