Jaffna Peninsula’s water need by late 2020 is expected to reach 488,500 cubic meters per day (m3 /day), in which the requirement for agriculture is 400,000 m3/day. “Arumugam Plan” or “Jaffna River” or any appropriate plan could meet the agriculture requirement and be a solution to the saltwater intrusion and land degradation in the Peninsula.
The water requirement, excluding the agricultural purpose is 88,500 m3 /day, which includes drinking water. It is reported that as per the modeling studies, the available groundwater sources can supply only 13,100 m3 /day during the drought, thus additional supply must be found from outside sources. Evaporation (1800 mm) in the north far exceeds the precipitation (1200 mm) level, thus being a chronic zone of water deficiency, ground water yield is expected to decrease. However, in contrary, the local population surprisingly perceives that the peninsula is in excess of water!
Groundwater in Jaffna is highly polluted due to contamination with synthetic and natural fertilizes, pesticide, and weedicide used in intensive agriculture, sewerage and pit latrines water and seawater intrusion. Nitrate-N concentrations in the dug wells exceeds the World Health Organization recommended limit of 10 mg/l, sometime reaching upto 35 mg/l and Nitrite-N values above the maximum permissible level of 0.01 mg/l. Nitrate-N concentration increase 1-2 mg/l annually. It was also reported that water in the dug wells of the peninsula exceeded desirable level for electrical conductivity, chlorine, sodium, hardness, bicarbonate, and coliform (found in feces of warm-blooded animals), prescribed by the WHO standards.
Nitrate is potentially hazardous when present at sufficiently high levels in drinking water, a possible cause of cancer in gastrointestinal tract. A study on the geographical pathology of malignant tumors in Sri Lanka had confirmed that the incidence of cancer is relatively higher in the Jaffna District. Furthermore, incidence of water borne diseases, including typhoid is reported to be high in the Jaffna district. It may be prudent to point out here that it is suspected that the Chronic Kidney Disease ravaging at an epidemic level in Padavia , Sripura, etc. is caused by the pollution of irrigation water, which is also used as drinking water.
National Water Supply and Drainage Board of Jaffna (NWSDB) is in a desperate search for 88,500 m3 /day safe drinking water to meet the demand of Jaffna District and Pachchilaipallai and Poonakary Divisions in Kilinochchi District. It had proposed to repair and raise the bund and head-works of Iranamadu Tank and enhance its capacity of storing to abstract 50,000 m3/day. Justifiably farmers protested it, after prolonged discussion with farmer’s representative and irrigation department, it was agreed to abstract 27,000 m3 /day. The water is to be taken along the Kandy – Jaffna (A9) road via Puthuk Kadu Junction to Pallai for treatment and then beyond.
NWSDB is in need of identifying the other sources for balance 23,000 m3/day water is also well aware that during the prolonged drought and even during the dry season of the year the Iranamadu Tank may not yield its expected water of 27,000 m3/day. Thus, it proposed to put up a desalination plant with a capacity of 24,000 m3/day. After the preliminary investigation at 20 potential sites, NWSDB had narrowed down at two location; Keerimalai and Maruthenkerny. Further, based on the feasibility studies and initial environmental examination, NWSDB had identified Maruthenkerny as the most suitable site. Thus, proposed a desalination plant, at Thalaiyadi (Maruthankerney) and to lay pipeline along the 9 km Soranpattu – Thalaiyadi road to via Puthuk Kadu Junction to Pallai to connect with Iranamadu Tank’s water pipe distribution network. Thus, major part of the distribution network shall be shared for the water from Iranamadu Tank and Maruthankerney desalination plant.