By James Kunda
LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) - Zambia and Zimbabwe were jointly allocated 45 billion cubic meters of water Tuesday for power generation this year at the Kariba Dam.
The allocation, to be share equally by both countries, was made by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), a binational entity managing generation at the transboundary water resource.
Its chief executive, Munyaradzi Munodawafa, however, cautioned the two power utilities -- Zesco Limited of Zambia and Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) -- not to generate at levels higher than the current 550 megawatts for each Kariba power station.
“This is owing to the delayed onset of the 2021/2022 rainfall season, and the authority is now preparing to undertake the hydrological review for the first quarter of 2022 that would further inform the water allocation for power generation operations at Kariba,” Munodawafa said in a statement in the Zambian capital Lusaka.
Zambia’s end, called Kariba North Bank, has an installed capacity of 1,080MW of power, while Zimbabwe’s end, Kariba South Bank, has a 1,050MW installed capacity.
Munodawafa said the 45 billion-cubic-meter allocation was based on predictions of normal to above normal rainfall provided by local and regional weather and climate experts but would be subject to a downward review should the rainy season turn out to be a drought period in order to conserve the stored usable water and support power generation operations into 2023.
He said owing to the recent steady increased rainfall activity and associated increase in Zambezi River flows as well as the resultant Lake Kariba inflow, the water level rose from 478.23 meters recorded on Jan. 7, 2022 to 478.47 meters recorded on Jan. 17, positioning the lake 2.97 meters above the minimum operating level of 475.5 meters.
“This translates into 13.43 billion cubic meters or 21% of stored usable water or live storage. On the same date last year, the lake level was slightly higher at 478.63 meters, with 14.17 billion cubic meters or 21.87% of usable storage, with the lake level being three meters above the minimum operating level,” he said.
Munodawafa said that during the last quarter of 2021, the authority requested Zesco and ZPC to reduce power generation levels for six hours only, on a few selected dates to facilitate coffer dam construction work under the plunge pool reshaping sub-project of the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project (KDRP).
He said specific work had advanced and is due to be completed by Jan, 25, 2022, thereby ending the authority’s request to the two power generation utilities and the full KDRP was scheduled to be completed by 2024 and aimed at assuring the long-term safety and reliability of Kariba Dam.
To compliment Kariba, the two countries are in the process of establishing a 2,400MW power plant at Batoka Gorge from where each would generate 1,200MW on either side of the shared Zambezi River.
The estimated $4.5 billion project is seen as a major boost in stabilizing power availability for the two southern African nations.