> Masimba Gomo
Bulawayo- The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) says it will next year reduce water allocation for power generation at Kariba Dam by 50 percent as water levels in the dam have continued to fall in recent months.
The decline in water levels in the dam are attributed largely to low rainfall in the past season sparked by climate change impacting negatively on water flows into the Zambezi River which feeds into Kariba Dam.
Established in 1987, the ZRA is mandated by Zambia and Zimbabwe to operate and maintain Kariba Dam Complex, investigate and develop new dam sites on the Zambezi River and analyzing and disseminating hydrological and environmental information pertaining to the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba.
The ZRA said cutting water generation provision was necessary to avoid water levels getting worse.
“Basing on the forecast and taking into account the prevailing hydrological situation, the water allocation for power generation at Kariba for the year 2016 has been drastically reduced to the order of 20 billion cubic metres which is practically half of the 2015 allocation,” the authority said.
“Hydrological simulations done in June 2015 by the authority indicated that if the current generation regime continued, the Kariba reservoir was going to hit the Minimum Operating level (MOL) by the end of the last quarter of 2015 (0.73 above the minimum operating level of 475, 50m), which would lead to shut down of power generation activities at Kariba in the early months of 2016.”
According to the 19th Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum for 2015/16 season the region is likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall for the period. The forecast is based on the fact that most models predicted that a strong El Nino will develop in the next several months and persist through the Southern Hemisphere 2015/16 summer.
Commenting on the development, an energy expert said the region needs to accelerate efforts to set up alternative sources of energy.
“Hydro power generation plants are not the only options available for power generation in Southern Africa. Events unfolding at the Kariba Dam should be taken as a clarion call to all serious regional countries to make huge investments in alternative sources of power generation such a solar and gas to counter effects of climate change being felt in Harare and Lusaka,” it said.
“Yes setting up a power plant is not an event but a process that means plans should now be afoot for other forms of power plants other than hydro.”
The two countries’ power utilities, the Zimbabwe Power Company and ZESCO of Zambia draw water to generate electricity from the Kariba Dam making the reservoir vital for the economic development of the two Southern African neighbours.