BULAWAYO, March 2 (The Source) — Kariba Dam water levels remain critically low as its catchment area did not receive significant inflows this year, keeping power supplies from Zimbabwe’s main electricity source in a precarious state, the energy minister has said.
Kariba Dam’s catchment area includes Zambia, Angola and DRC.
Energy and Power Development minister, Samuel Undenge told journalists in Bulawayo on Wednesday on the sidelines of a regional energy conference that the country was not yet out of the woods.
“As you aware, last year we were producing at an average of 285MW and the Zambezi River Authority, which administers the Kariba dam, has increased our allocation of water from 20 billion to 30 billion.We are now producing 380MW and in other words we have moved from 285MW to 380MW which is 50.6 percent of the generation capacity,” Undenge said.
“So we are not yet out of the woods. But we have had that increased generation. It’s better, instead of going further down, we are now regaining what we had lost.”
The Kariba hydroelectric plant had its output capped at 285MW, down from 705MW in 2015 due to lower dam water levels. However, statistics from the Zimbabwe Power Company showed the plant was generating 600MW on Thursday.
Permanent secretary in the Energy Ministry, Partson Mbiriri, said 45 percent of the water that comes into Lake Kariba comes from the northern catchment which is Zambia, Angola and DRC but those areas did not receive much rains compared to Zimbabwe.
“So whereas we are under impression that so much water has come and has gone into the Lake, unfortunately, that has not been the case with respect to the northern catchment. Even the Barotse Floodplain is still dry as I speak, which is something that we need to take note of,” Mbiriri said.
“This is the reason why the Zambezi River Authority has not completely liberalised to say there is lot of water coming in and therefore you can go full stream or throttle in terms of power generation at Kariba.”
“So there is a controlled progression from where we were and where we are today depending on how much water gets into the lake. There may be some relaxation or some containment as well. That’s why the minister is saying we are not yet out of the woods”.
Undenge said when the Kariba dam is full, it holds 161 billion cubic metres of water, but out of the 161 billion cubic metres of water, only 65 billion cubic metres of water are available for power generation.
The other water is dead storage, he said.
‘So 65 billion cubic meters and the allocation for water production right now it is 30 billion cubic metres which is half of the 65 billion cubic metres. That’s why the generation of a 380MW translates to 50.6 billion cubic metres of water.
“So we still need, perhaps, another year or two of very good rains for the dam to fill up. Statistically, Zimbabwe contributes 15 percent of the water inflows into the Kariba Dam and Zambia contributes 42.5 percent of the water inflows into the Kariba Dam. So much of the catchment area of the Kariba Dam, the Zambezi River, is in Zambia,” he said.