Access to safe drinking water has been a major issue in the Northern Province situated in the dry zone, as climatic changes have altered the monsoon in the recent past the time and duration of it has become a rather unpredictable factor. If all goes well, the province gets some intermittent rain during March to May, but the rest of the time temperatures stay above 30C and a high humidity rate around 80 on an average, makes life uncomfortable, to say the least. In Mannar district, the North East monsoon rain on average brings about 1,200mm during late October till about January, thus for half the year gets no rainfall makes water a precious commodity for those living in the district. Although the three rivers – Nay Aru, Aruvi Aru and Kal Aru cut across the district predominantly depends on rainwater for agriculture in the area. While 100 % land is cultivated during the Maha season, during Yala season crop cultivation falls back to 25%; due to shortage water gets released for paddy, the main crop from 3 reservoirs – Akathimuruppu, Viyathikulam and the Giant Tank in the area. Though the area is marked for its extensive and highly productive aquifers, tapping into them is a difficult task, the only available sources are the rivers and the tanks for potable water is therefore scarce for most of the year.
And now, clean and safe water is provided to households of over 40% of the population as the result of the Mannar Water Supply project was assisted and financed by the Dry Zone Urban Water and Sanitation Project of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). At Murunkan, the newly drilled bore-wells running into a depth of 100 feet provide water throughout the day, at a rate of 100 cubic meters per hour. These high yield wells, though with a capacity of 13,500 cubic meters, are harvested at 7,000 to 8,000 cubic meters per day. At present, the intake pumps are operated only 20 hours a day. This water is treated and stored in the ground reservoir at Murunkan, and pumped to transmission stations from where it is distributed to households. Re-chlorination happens at the tower sites before distribution. Though the forecast was only to reach 26,000 of the population, this target was met during the first year itself due to high demand; prior to the project, it was limited to 3,000 connections. However the authorities have been able to expand it to about 13,000, and 1,000 more connections will be provided by next year. Though the original plan for the distribution system was for 105 km they had managed to extend it to 145 km; the ongoing project initiated in 2011 has been able to meet most of its beneficiary targets. According to the project plan, the population coverage forecast for 2035 is 55,000, but the project as of end 2016 had reached a population of 52,584 persons. At the start, the percentage of households with pipe-borne water had been 15.18 percent within the district of Mannar, it has now risen to 47%, equal to the national average. Lack of water sources is the main obstacle in providing pipe-borne water to households in the Mannar district. Although considerable amounts of clean water could be accessed at the aquifers, suitable aquifers with a high yield to supply the water needs of thousands of households are scarce. Added to this is the cost of laying the transmission and distribution systems. Though solutions were sought to utilize the available surface water, the need for irrigable water has impeded the efforts; the Greater Mannar Water Supply Project, which is still in its proposal form plans to tap the surface water from Kal Aru and Tiyadikulam to supply areas which cannot be reached through the Murunkan bore wells.