Just 1% usable water left in Kariba Dam

Kariba Dam Hydroelectric Power Station

Water levels at Kariba Dam have dropped to alarming levels, with the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) indicating that if it does not rain anytime soon power generation will be suspended.


Statistics from ZRA indicate that the water levels in the dam are just three metres shy of the point of no usage, as the dam cannot operate below 475,50m. Currently it is at 478,51m.

Water levels at Kariba dropped to 40% of capacity by mid-July and now have declined to 21% with less than 1% left for usage.


The decline, according to ZRA, was due to intensified evaporation in the hot months and late onset of the rainy season.

“The lake levels continued dropping during the week under review [November 1-7]. This is a result of low lake inflows coupled with high turbine outflows. The lake levels closed the week at 478,51m on November 7, which is 5,15m lower than the level recorded last year on the same date,” read a statement by ZRA.

“The Kariba Lake was created and designed to operate between levels 475,50m and 488,50m with 0,70m freeboard at all times.”
The ZRA statement indicated that only three metres are left to sustain the country till meaningful rains fall.

Although the authority did not give an interpretation of the statistics, the latest drop has seen the dam’s capacity going down to 21% compared to 60% recorded last year during the same period.

Zimbabwe, which requires up to 2 200 megawatts (MW) of electricity per day, is currently producing about 895MW inclusive of imports and production from Hwange Thermal Station, less than half of national demand, has seen many parts of the country spending up to 18 hours a day without electricity and crippling industry.

Kariba and Hwange account for 95% of Zimbabwe’s daily power output and the imminent shutdown of Kariba — if they are no rains soon — could worsen the dire situation for the country, which is already in the throes of a debilitating economic crisis that is seeing many survive on vending.


  1. So a lot of water is lost through the turbines. Engineers should design a mechanism of pumping the used water back into the dam? It’s feasible because I have heard and read about it.

  2. If drought is the main reason for low levels of water in Lake Kariba, how come downstream Lake Cahora Bassa sorely owned by Mozambique is not in the same predicament. The painful truth is that the dam is over-used by both Zambia and Zimbabwe. What is happening at Lake Kariba is the classic case of tragedy of commons, whereby if a resource is being shared by two or more parties, there is no incentive to conserve it, but actually compete to use the same. It has been reported that great amounts of water are lost through the turbines, meaning it is usage of water to generate electricity which is chiefly responsible for the decrease of water than drought related causes. In fact I can corroborate my thesis by indicating that even during periods when drought was non-existent, observers and researchers had already noted a precipitous fall of the lake’s water level as evidenced by emergence of the once submerged trees. It is not difficult to find the reason, the lake could have had enough water to support the two countries, particularly when Zambia was basically an agrarian economy. In recent years Zambia has industrialized and that has caused increased demand for electricity. Zambia has the capacity and financial resources of diversifying electrical generation away from Kariba, but has not done so because the easiest way is Kariba, and unfortunately the lake cannot cope. To support my point both countries are competing to expand the electrical generation capacity on the lake totally oblivious of the pressure on the resource. Talk of the lack of maintenance on the lack threatening the very resource, if the dam wall collapses. The problem at Lake Kariba also is manifested in the utilization of Kapenta, where over fishing mainly by our Zambian counterparts due to the excessive number of boats has led to rapid and dramatic reduction of Kapenta fish. If there is one person I blame for all this mess is Cecil John Rhodes, that man in quest to extend the British Empire from Cape to Cairo went on creating a series of land-landlocked nonviable countries, whose geographical locations makes economic development almost impossible. That is why the settlers combined the three landlocked countries of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland into federal state. The creation of Zambia and Zimbabwe and Malawi and other British colonies was not strategic at all, but just a mere self ambition of a wandering colonialist. Had Rhodes really worried about the sustainability of these personal projects, he should, at least forced the Portuguese in the East to part with some land, for these countries to have access to the sea and to ensure that Zimbabwe has sole ownership of the whole or at least some parts of Zambezi and Limpopo without sharing all the rivers with others which makes conservation and development almost impossible. For Zimbabwe, we actually have a solid basis, for our forefathers had carved themselves a land straddling both these two major rivers and had ample access to Indian Ocean, where they controlled trade there. How come Rhodes did not read about the Great Munhumutapa Empire for him to at least trace the demarcations of the country in negotiating the boundaries, especially within the framework of that evil Berlin Conference. So, if we are not considering nuclear energy as a source of energy, there is no option but to engage in serious diplomatic offensive with Zambia and encourage them to develop hydro-electric projects inside the country and not just to rely on Kariba. Until recently they could borrow money from international lenders and build those facilities, as for Zimbabwe, we can not do anything than to negotiate…Rhodes why did you do this? sowing the seeds for the Tragedy of Commons.

  3. Chinese engineers will do under the mega deals agreement but as usual they will mess up and let the remainig water out of the dam..

    • i am sure Rhodes would have loved a share of Mozambique .He must have been distracted with something else or too busy counting his money and diamonds before he realized it was too late.

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