By Laiton Kandawire
Lake Kariba was designed at a mean operating level of 475.50m above sea level. Normally there is a seasonal rise and fall of the level of the lake of approximately 3 metres, between its peak in June and its lowest point in December, although the level dropped to about 10 metres below normal in 1984 following three successive drought years in the catchment areas (Source: Studies of Fishing on Lake Kariba by M.F.C. Bourdillon, A.P. Cheater & M.W. Murphree – available for sale at Essential Necessities, Andora Harbour). In the first Kariba is Affrodable! issue it was reported that the lake level reading was 479.51m on 22 September 2015. By 13 November 2015 it was a metre down at 478.51m above sea level. Daily turbine usage is now averaging 2.3cm. This is not frightening at all.
News headlines that “Water Levels in Kariba Dam have dropped alarmingly” are, therefore, alarmist themselves and a failure to interpret data provided by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), managers of the reservoir. At current usage, the lake level will be around 477.41m by Christmas, which is 1.44m above the mean operating level. Normal increase from local rainfall averages about 1m rise even before the Zambezi River flow takes effect. As you read this, Kariba is received its first meaningful rains.
Twice I have seen the lake level drop to within 50cm of mean operating level. We are far from getting there. Let’s not worsen a bad situation – Kariba will thrive, especially if ZESCO (Zambia) and ZPC (Zimbabwe) follow the water allocation limits set by the ZRA.