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World’s biggest reservoir may stop power output amid drought

Water levels at the Kariba hydropower dam continue to fall.
A general view taken on February 19, 2015 shows the Kariba Dam wall between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Image: Getty Images

Zambia risks having to switch off power production completely at the Kariba hydropower dam for the first time as water levels already at the lowest in more than two decades continue to drop, according to the state-owned electricity utility.

“The risk is there,” Patrick Mwila, strategy and corporate services director at Zesco, told reporters Thursday in Lusaka, the capital. “We are doing all that we can to ensure that that plant continues operating.”

Zambia and Zimbabwe depend on hydropower plants at Kariba, the world’s biggest man-made freshwater reservoir, for nearly half of their generating capacity. Consumers in each country have already faced daily power cuts lasting as long as 18 hours as water levels dropped to 10% of usable storage. Never before have the two countries had to completely switch off power generation because of low levels at the dam that straddles their border.

“The centimeters to rock bottom remaining is very little,” Mwila said. “And it’s standard practice not to go to rock bottom.”

The plant on the south bank of the dam in Zimbabwe is currently producing about 100 megawatts, compared with capacity of 1,050 megawatts, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a speech at Zimbabwe’s ruling-party conference on Friday.

The Zambezi River Authority, the regulator in charge of Kariba’s water use that Zambia and Zimbabwe jointly run, also warned that the power plants may have to shut completely, state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. reported on Wednesday, citing chief executive officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa.

Rains that normally start in October were late, and precipitation in much of the Zambezi basin in Zambia was below normal by early December. Kariba’s levels usually start rising from January or February.

Zambia had already used up its entire annual water allocation by last month and faces penalties, Mwila said. The country now has a power deficit of as much as 810 megawatts.

Households and factories have borne the brunt of the power shortage in Zambia, as the government has sought to minimise the impact on the copper mining companies that provide about 70% of the country’s export earnings.

© 2019 Bloomberg


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It was reported ±3 years ago (in various media) that the Kariba Dam wall was on the brink of collapse.

Surely the low water levels (although detrimental to both Zim and Zambia’s power production) could be a bonus at this point if repairs are indeed still being implemented?

“Apart from the loss of the two hydro-electric plants, a collapse of the wall also posed a massive risk of flooding in Zim, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the event of the Zambezi River bursting its banks due to a sudden emptying of the 250km-long water reservoir, which makes up Lake Kariba.”

Flooding of this magnitude would be a catastrophic humanitarian crisis! (more so than what the countries are currently experiencing due to lack of power)

I hope that repairs have been prioritized and are underway!

At least the text below the pic explains that it is not a recent one. A recent article on MW about low waterflows at the Vic falls, was accompanied by an old photo showing still The smoke that thunders, Mosi oa tunya.
Zim and Zam should build large PV solar projects near the dam, which can provide power on daytime through the same HV lines, while they use the hydro at night. But ZANU-PF comrats are only interested in backhanders.
Re: possible dam collapse :

End of comments.





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