Story highlights

Weak monsoons and soaring temperatures have resulted in crisis in India

Even the upcoming monsoon "cannot compensate" for groundwater shortages, expert says

CNN  — 

India’s killer heatwave is leaving the country reeling from the worst drought in decades and a rural population struggling to survive.

Relief is due with the arrival of the monsoon in mid-June, and because of the impending La Nina weather pattern, the forecast is for above-average rainfall.

However WaterAid India’s Head of Policy, Nitya Jacob, says groundwater levels are so depleted that even if a good monsoon comes in June – and meteorologists predict there will be one that ends the drought – it won’t be enough.

“Even if the monsoon is good, it cannot compensate,” Jacob told CNN.

Central Water Commission data shows that India’s major reservoirs are 79% empty, and 75% of India’s basins are holding less water than the 10-year average.

CNN Meteorologist, Michael Guy, says this is usually the hottest time for the subcontinent, but this year has seen abnormally high temperatures.

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“India is currently in their summer or pre-monsoon season, which lasts from April to late May, or early June,” says Guy.

“This year we’ve seen temperatures range from the lower 40s to as high as 47˚C or 116˚Fahrenheit. For some, this is three to five degrees (Celsius) above normal.”

And critically, the past two monsoon seasons have seen below average rainfall.

“This has had a huge impact on groundwater supplies,” says Jacob.

Impact on the ground

The government estimates up to 330 million people could currently be affected by the dry climate conditions.

“We are seeing that people don’t even have enough water for drinking,” says Jacob.