The Rivers of India carry huge volumes of water per year but it is unevenly distributed both in time and space. There are perennial rivers carrying water throughout the year while the non-perennial rivers have very little water during the dry season. During the rainy season, much of the water is wasted in floods and flows down to the sea. Similarly, when there is a flood in one part of the country, the other area suffers from drought.
It varies from season to season. The pattern of flow of water in a river channel over a year is known as its regime. The north Indian rivers originating from the Himalayas are perennial as they are fed by glaciers through snow melt and also receive rainfall water during rainy season. The rivers of South India do not originate from glaciers and their flow pattern witness’s fluctuations. The flow increases considerably during monsoon rains. Thus, the regime of the rivers of South India is controlled by rainfall which is also varies from one part of the peninsular plateau to the other.
The discharge is the volume of water flowing in a river measured over time. It is measured either in cusecs (cubic feet per second) or cumecs (cubic metres per second). The Ganga has its minimum flow during the January-June period. The maximum flow is attained either in August or in September. After September, there is a steady fall in the flow. The river, thus, has a monsoon regime during the rainy season. There are striking differences in the river regimes in the eastern and the western parts of the Ganga Basin. The Ganga maintains a sizeable flow in the early part of summer due to snow melt before the monsoon rains begin. The mean maximum discharge of the Ganga at Farakka is about 55,000 cusecs while the mean minimum is only 1,300 cusecs.
The two Peninsular Rivers display interesting differences in their regimes compared to the Himalayan Rivers. The Narmada has a very low volume of discharge from January to July but it suddenly rises in August when the maximum flow is attained. The fall in October is as spectacular as the rise in August. The flow of water in the Narmada, as recorded at Garudeshwar, shows that the maximum flow is of the order of 2,300 cusecs, while the minimum flow is only 15 cusecs. The Godavari has the minimum discharge in May, and the maximum in July-August. After August, there is a sharp fall in water flow although the volume of flow in October and November is higher than that in any of the months from January to May. The mean maximum discharge of the Godavari at Polavaram is 3,200 cusecs while the mean minimum flow is only 50 cusecs. These figures give an idea of the regime of the river.
Problems in using river water
Most of the cremation grounds are on the banks of rivers and the dead bodies are sometimes thrown in the rivers. On the occasion of some festivals, the flowers and statues are immersed in the rivers. Large scale bathing and washing of clothes also pollute river waters.