22 March 2019

Zimbabwe: Power Shortage Looms As Kariba Dam Dries Up Due to Drought

Photo: The Herald
Kariba South Power Station (file photo).

The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages the Kariba Dam on behalf of Zimbabwe and its northern neighbour Zambia, has warned of a serious electricity crisis as water levels in the man-made lake have gone down to 39 percent.

ZRA reported Thursday, that water levels had gone down by seven centimeters mid March owing to a dry spell in the southern hemisphere amid fears of a crippling drought.

In response ZRA has cut on water allocations for electricity generation to the two countries.

"Zambezi River Authority wishes to announce a further reduction in the water allocated for power generation at Kariba, from 38 billion cubic metres to 36 billion cubic metres for 2019. This will reduce the combined power generation level at Kariba from the obtaining 1,476MW to 890MW," the authority said in the statement.

Zimbabwe currently produces minimal power from its thermal and hydro electric plants supplementing this with imports from South Africa as well as Mozambique.

ZRA said the decision was being implemented to ensure continued availability of water for power generation into the 2020 season.

The dam which usually overspills during the rainy season into winter when the Zambezi is in full flow, may not experience any over spill this year, authorities said.

ZRA promised to monitor the water situation in the river and dam to ensure availability of water for power generation.

While expectations are high that the river and dam will record inflows, water levels dropped by three metres between October 2018 and February this year. The levels further dropped to five metres above minimum operating level.

A joint operations technical committee weekly report shows that the dam's water levels have been dropping from 43 percent in December to 39 as of this month.

The dam sits on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is used for power generation by both countries.

Zimbabwe and Zambia are also working on a joint electricity at the Batoka gorges where a hydro power plant will be constructed, to provide a combined 2 400 MW of electricity.

Construction is set to start this year.

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