The livelihoods of lakhs of farmers and farm labourers are dependent on release of Cauvery water in Tamil Nadu but Karnataka has maintained that it was "not in a position" to release Cauvery water to its neighbouring state and is hoping for a "favourable order" by the Supreme Court.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy wrote a letter to Karnataka counterpart Siddaramaiah last month demanding immediate release of seven thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water to the state as per the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. To this he replied, "We do not have water. How can we supply to them? It is not possible to release water to Tamil Nadu."
The origins of the dispute over the sharing of Cauvery waters date back to the Madras-Mysore agreements of 1924. In 1990, the central government created a tribunal to examine the conflict and address the water shortage. 17 years later in 2007, this tribunal delivered its verdict on how water should be shared between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka Kerala and Puducherry. All states challenged the share assigned to them.
In 2012, the Supreme Court intervened and ordered Karnataka to increase the supply of water to Tamil Nadu. Later when Tamil Nadu filed a suit against the dip in water supply, Karnataka government said that there wasn't enough water supply in the four dams on the Cauvery to cater to the drinking needs of Bengaluru and Mysuru and it was unfair on part of Tamil Nadu to ask for more water.
As situation became tense between the two states, the Supreme Court intervened again in 2016 and directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water daily for a period of 10 days (September 7 - September 16) to Tamil Nadu. After Karnataka's interim petition, it modified the order on September 12 and directed Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water daily till September 20. This triggered massive protests in Karnataka.
After Karnataka ignored the Supreme Court's order, the state was asked by the top court to explain its repeated defiance of orders. In what was seen as a "token gesture", Karnataka released some Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu for its farmers. On October 18, 2016, the Supreme Court asked Karnataka to release 2000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu till further orders.
On July 5, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed Tamil Nadu to file a fresh plea alleging that Karnataka was not giving its due share of Cauvery water.