Zimbabwe’s prolonged power crisis is set to worsen after the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) this week cut the amount of water allocated to ZESA and ZESCO for power generation at Kariba Dam due to the water crisis, it has been learnt.
ZESA and its Zambia sister utility, ZESCO, equally share water at Kariba for power generation.
The two power utilities are now utilising 15 billion cubic metres each from 22.5 billion cubic metres, which was allocated for the year 2022, ZRA chief executive officer Munyaradzi Munodawafa told Business Times.
This is the second worst allocation in the history of ZRA. The worst allocation was affected in 1995, when ZRA allocated 11 billion cubic metres to ZESA and ZESCO.
“We have cut the water allocation to 15 billion cubic metres each from 22.5 billion metres with immediate effect. Last week, we concluded our water allocation reviews and have since written to the power utilities to adhere to the new limits. We are also going to limit their generation load,” Munodawafa said on the sideline of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair International Business Conference yesterday.
ZRA is a joint venture outfit owned by the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia and is responsible for the management of the Zambezi River waters and the Kariba Dam complex which comprises the dam wall and water storage reservoirs and other associated ancillary facilities such as lake levels and river inflows monitoring equipment.
Munodawafa said the reason for the cut is that the focus for the rainfall was to be normal to above normal.
“But this did not happen. On the Zimbabwe side, Gwayi River did not register any flow into the lake Kariba. There were, however, some flashes from Sanyati River. The Angolan catchment which usually supplies more water into Lake Kariba was also below what it used to do. But what is funny is that the Kafue catchment in Zambia is actually spilling,” he said.
“However, we will not be that strict until the end of the winter agriculture season in July. After July, we will be tough with ZESA and ZESCO. Next year, it’s likely to be worse.”
Over the past years, Zimbabwe was contributing about 20% of the inflows into Kariba Dam. There are only two rivers, which supply water into the lake. These are Sanyati and Gwayi rivers.
But, Munodawafa revealed that there was no contribution from Sanyati River while there were flash flows from Gwayi River.
On the other hand, 80% of the water into the Zambezi River comes from Zambia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other catchments in the north of the flood pains.
Munodawafa yesterday told Business Times that the usually reliable Angola catchment performed below the expectations.
As such the Barotse plains, which are also known as wetlands, were not releasing the expected water at this time of the year, he said.
Contacted for a comment on the latest water allocation cut, ZESA general manager, stakeholder relations, communications and welfare, George Manyaya told Business Times: “We haven’t received the letter yet from ZRA.”
The water cuts come as ZESA this week said the power situation has improved due to the stabilisation of performance of Hwange Unit 7.
The power utility said it has been engaging ZRA for “more water allocation” and could not “confirm that we have been allowed to increase generation for limited periods”.