ZRA intensifies water rationing

HARARE - The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), jointly owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia with the mandate to run Kariba Dam administration, says it is moving to further reduce the allocation of power generation water supplies to the two countries, as the power generation situation for the two countries increasingly gets desperate.

In a statement released yesterday, the ZRA said the receding lake levels recorded at Kariba during the 2014/15 season resulted from low rain inflows and increased generation activity by the two country’s power generation utilities Zesco Limited (Zesco) and the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).

Zesco operates the Kariba North Bank Power Station while ZPC operates the Kariba South Bank Power Station.

“It is in consideration of these factors that the Authority has further reduced the allocation of water for energy at Kariba from the current 40,5 billion to 20 billion cubic metres to be shared equally between the two power utilities,” the ZRA said.

This comes as electricity shortages in the two southern African countries worsened in September due to low water levels in the dam — a situation that has threatened output, jobs and economic growth.

Kariba’s low water levels have compelled both countries to cut electricity generation and have led to rotating power cuts that last as long as 14 hours a day.

Zambia’s energy shortage has also led to mine suspensions in Africa’s second-largest producer of copper and thousands of planned job cuts and a 100 percent power tariff hike.

It’s also contributed to this year’s 47 percent depreciation of the kwacha, the world’s worst-performing currency, against the dollar.

In Zimbabwe, the power cuts are having their toll on the ailing local industry, which has been operating at between 30 and 35 percent of their installed capacity.

This comes as the Energy minister Samuel Undenge earlier this month announced that ZRA was going to cut Zimbabwe’s allocation of water from January 2016 to 20 billion cubic metres.

The ZRA said in terms of storage, Kariba was 28 percent full at the end of September 2015, compared to the 68 percent capacity recorded for the same period last year.

“The current (as at October 20, 2015) situation at the Kariba live storage stands at 24 percent compared to 64 percent recorded on the same date in 2014,” said the ZRA.

According to the engineering body, the total reservoir storage capacity is 181 billion cubic metres, with a dead storage of 65 percent of the total reservoir storage capacity (116 billion cubic metres) and a live storage of 35 percent of the total reservoir capacity (65 billion cubic metres).

The ZRA also said that after recording subdued inflows into the lake during the 2014/15 rainy season, combined power generation for the two utilities was reduced in March 2015 from 45 to 33 billion cubic metres for the remainder of the year.

“Despite reduced allocation, the two utilities generated above their respective thresholds between March and August 2015.

“However, it is worth noting that the efforts to get them to adhere to allocation seemed to yield results in September 2015 when Zesco and ZPC utilised 10 percent and 16 percent below their monthly allocation, respectively,” the authority said.

Significant reduction in power generation at Kariba was experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the power station generated 40 percent to 60 percent of normal energy output.

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