Once a favourite summer retreat of the erstwhile British rulers, Shimla is now so much in the grip of water scarcity that its hotels as well as guests have to fork out handsome amounts for every bucket they need.
In most of Shimla, taps stay dry - water supply is restricted to once in two or three days. Some neighbourhoods receive tap water once a week.
The owners and managers of Shimla's 450 hotels, restaurants and guest-houses are a worried lot.
"We are buying a 3,000-litre water tanker for Rs.5,000 from a private supplier to meet our daily needs," D.P. Bhatia, the general manager of the Oberoi Group's Clarkes Hotel, told IANS.
Private suppliers bring water from natural sources located on the outskirts of Shimla to sell to the hotels, he said. Civic authorities say water shortage has become more acute since January 2 when supply from Ashwani Khud was stopped following a recent outbreak of jaundice.
Ashwani Khud was the source of water for one-third of Shimla's population before the outbreak of jaundice, supplying nine to 10 million litres per day (MLD).
At an emergency meeting here on Thursday, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh directed officials to restore water supply from Ashwani Khud after taking measures to decontaminate the channel.
Many neighbourhoods get tapped water supply for only 20-25 minutes after three to four days, local legislator Suresh Bhardwaj, who raised the issue in the last session of the assembly, told IANS.
According to tourism industry representatives, Shimla gets 20,000-30,000 tourists on an average every weekend during the peak season -- from May to June and November to January.
Irrigation and public health secretary Anuradha Thakur said work on pumping Satluj river water from Kol Dam in Mandi district is on with a view to relieving water shortage in Shimla.