Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Kariba dam drains toward record low


Water levels at the Kariba dam are plunging toward record lows, threatening hydroelectricity production for Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The dam had 10.9% of usable storage this week, compared with 34.1% a year ago, according to data from the Zambezi River Authority.

Levels are close to those reached in the 1995/96 season, the lowest recorded since the 128-meter (420 feet) high dam was completed in 1959.

While inflows from the Zambezi river were lower than the long-term mean in the past rainy season, the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe have both built extra hydropower turbines at Kariba in the past decade, which release more water downstream.

Normally, water levels start rising in January.

“Appropriate measures to prevent a complete depletion of the scarce water in the Kariba reservoir have been taken with the power utilities,” the Zambezi River Authority, which manages the dam on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe, said in an emailed response to questions.

“Considering the rainfall forecast for the forthcoming season of normal-to-above normal, the authority has optimized the water allocation for 2023.”

Kariba has a generation capacity of 2,130 megawatts split between Zambia and Zimbabwe, which are separated by the Zambezi. The low levels could exacerbate a power shortage in Zimbabwe, which is currently generating 750 megawatts at the dam, until a coal-power plant at Hwange adds 300 megawatts — due next month.

Zambia has reduced its dependence on Kariba through the commissioning of the 750-megawatt Kafue Gorge Lower hydropower dam.

Zesco Ltd., Zambia’s state-owned power utility, didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions.



  1. Zesco will respond to the e-mail after appropriate consultations. Bloomberg should not think that their deadlines are also the deadlines of people they ask questions.

  2. This is what happens when you have a government that lacks foresight and a president who is more interested in travelling and claiming allowances than sorting local issues at home. Upnd is a huge failure.

    We in pf in uk have even stopped persuading British people to visit zambia. Better they go Kenya

  3. We need deliberate measures to start protecting the Zambezi river. There are a lot of investors migrating to the Northwestern Province. Urbanisation will follow too. Charcoal burning and cutting of trees will follow…..Already when I see so much sale of charcoal on the roads in north western province i get worried. We get very good rains that fills all the rivers that feed the Zambezi. Soon with industrialisation will affect the rain parttens and the Zambezi rivers and eventually the Kariba dam.

  4. It is the unmitigated chopping of forests in the catchment areas of the zambezi river causing this……….

    Atleast the Zimbabwean side cares about environmental issues to an extent…….

    While zambia had an environmental looter as a president……….reserve forests were looted, mining was being permitted in the zambezi basin , him and his family was even implicated in illegal mukula exports

    Now his rign of financial and environmental looting is over, we expect things to stabilise

    • They were not doing so in 1960. So why now? is the question. We have so many Zambians calling themselves engineers. Why dont they turn up now and show the nation how to conserve the water in this dam?

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