Concerns raised as Lake Kariba’s water level continues to go down due to El Nino.

– The Zambezi River Authority has reduced the allocation of water for Zambia and Zimbabwe to 16 billion cubic meters for electricity generation

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zambezi River Authority has announced that due to El Niño, the water level is decreasing in Lake Kariba, and will result in water allocation for electricity generation for Zambia and Zimbabwe, to be reduced to 16 billion cubic meters, from 30 billion cubic meters.

The concerns were raised recently by the Zambian Energy Minister Peter Kapala during the Zambezi River Authority’s 41st Council of Ministers meeting held in Livingstone.

“I wish to State here that the two governments are highly concerned with the low projected inflows and as a result, the 2024 budget is based on water location of 16 billion cubic meters to be shared equally between the two utilities. 

This means that there will be less water for power generation considering that the Honourable Ministers of Energy and Finance, their Permanent Secretaries, and representatives of utilities are in this room, I cannot overemphasize the need to seriously manage water usage at Kariba Dam,” Minister Peter Kapala said.

As of December 18, the water level was at 477. 16m compared to 477.45m on December 1.

This translates to 11.48% usable storage compared to 13.52% respectively.

While the water level this year is higher than last year, the late start of the rainy season, owing to the El Nino phenomenon, has been blamed.  

Accordingly, the Zambezi River Authority has reduced the allocation of water for Zambia and Zimbabwe to 16 billion cubic meters for electricity generation from the beginning of 2024.

The year 2022 saw water allocation for electricity generation being slashed to 40 billion cubic meters and further to 30 billion cubic meters.

On the other hand, the Zimbabwean Minister of Energy and Power Development, Edgar Moyo echoed optimism amid the challenges, urging both countries to plan for various scenarios.

“As we close the year 2023 and plan for an unpredictable and possibly very dry 2024, arising from the merciless El Nino phenomenon which is expected to destabilize our systems, despite this unpredictability all hope is not lost.

We need to soldier on and plan for both the best and the worst outcomes. The two Contracting States will continue engaging The Authority to manage the water usage. I’m happy that as much as we faced serious power shortages in 2023 we still managed to utilize the water as allocated by the Zambezi River Authority. In that regard we’re also ending the year with some capacity in the Lake Kariba,” Minister Moyo said.

Towards the end of 2022, the Zambezi River Authority warned that water usable for power generation had been exhausted calling for the immediate suspension of the generation of power on the Zimbabwean side, until January 2023.

The letter by Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa, chief executive of the Zambezi Water Authority reads in part, “Please be advised that as of 25th November 2022, Kariba South Bank Power Station had utilized 23.89 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) of water, accounting for 1.39 BCM (or 6.16%) above the 2022 water allocation of 22.50 BCM. 

Given that the Kariba Reservoir usable storage currently stands at a paltry 2.98 BCM or 4.60% full, and that ZESCO Limited still has a positive balance of 2.44BCM (10.82%) as of 25th November 2022, ZPC/KHPC (ZPC/Kariba Hydro Power Company Private Limited) no longer has any usable water to continue undertaking power generation operations at Kariba South Bank Power Station.”

Zambezi River Authority, whose responsibility is to manage water in Lake Kariba and Zambezi River on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe, said it is monitoring the situation.

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