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Zimbabwe dams gain record inflows in more than 5 decades

by Staff reporter
17 Feb 2021 at 05:56hrs | Views
Dams in the country have gained a record 47,5 percent inflows since 1974 following improved rains in the current 2020–2021 summer season, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) says.

In a latest report, the authority said dam levels have been on the rise in the past few months due incessant rains that have pounded most parts of the country.

"Between the end of October when the rains started and January 31, 2021, our dams gained 47,5 percent inflows only second to the 48,6 percent recorded at the end of January in 1974.  The inflows are the second highest to be recorded between October and January since 1970," Zinwa said.

The good rains have boosted the country's water security position and brightened prospects for irrigation and domestic water supply.

Zimbabwe has scored from the strength of major dams being replenished to decent levels after years of back-to-back droughts. More than half of the country's dams were now full and spilling, providing relief to farmers and local authorities that battled to provide water to residents in various parts of the country.

Zimbabwe has more than 10 000 dams, including small weirs in various farms. The country's largest internal dam Tugwi-Mukosi Dam which was commissioned in May 2017, spilled for the first time in January this year.

The 1,8 billion cubic metres capacity reservoir is the largest interior water body in Zimbabwe and is expected to support irrigation schemes in Masvingo province.

Some of the dams that were already overflowing include Bubi-Lupane, pollards (Matabeleland North), Ingwizi, Zhove (Matabeleland South), Insukamini, Exchange, Gwenoro, Sebakwe (Midlands), Bangala, Mushandike, Siya (Masvingo), Nyadire, Chikomba, (Mashonaland East), Biri, Claw, Mamina (Mashonaland West), Nerutanga, Rusape (Manicaland) and Harava Dam in Harare.

Inflows for other major dams that were not yet full show that Mzingwane stood at 33 percent, Upper Ncema 61,8 percent, Mtshabezi 49,3 percent, Insiza 67,3 percent (Matabeleland South), Mutirikwi 80 percent (Masvingo), Chivero 70,2 percent, Manyame 66,6 percent, Mazvikadei 66,2 percent (Mashonaland West) and Osborne 54 percent and Marovanyati 66,2 percent (Manicaland).

Some of the smaller dams that were already overflowing include Ngwenya Dam, Lower Mgusa, Exchange, Pollards, Nyangombe, Bulilima, Nyajena, Lower Zibagwe, Padre's Pool, Somalala and Bangazaan.

The improved national dam water levels inspires optimism for a continuous water supply for both domestic, industrial and farming operations.

The country's largest external water body Lake Kariba straddling Zimbabwe and Zambia over the Zambezi was also experiencing increased inflows into this body of water which holds 180 cubic kilometres of water.

"The Kariba Lake is designed to operate between levels 475,50m and 488,50m (with 0.70m freeboard) for hydropower generation," the Zambezi River Authority said in an update for the January 26-February 8, 2021 period.

"The Lake level is increasing with increasing inflows from the Zambezi River and immediate Kariba Lower Catchment closing at 479,57m (28,69 percent usable storage) on February 8 2021, compared to 476,71m (8,36 percent usable storage) recorded on the same date last year."

As at February 15, 2021, the national dam level average stood at 89 percent showing an improvement of 50,07 percent since the beginning of the 2020-2021 rainfall season last October.

Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region recorded the lowest rainfall in nearly four decades in the 2018-2019 cropping season, sparking fears of increased food insecurity and water shortages in the region.

In Zimbabwe and most other countries in SADC, the utilisation of water for irrigation by the agriculture sector is still below capacity and needs to be urgently revitalised.

Failure to tap the potential of irrigation as a strategic way to achieve food security, create wealth and prosperity for its citizens, still remains a major weakness and various efforts are underway to harness water in various water bodies for the country's benefit.

Most local authorities are still struggling to provide residents with water despite improved inflows into the dams. Through irrigation infrastructure development with the support of international partners, Zimbabwe and most other countries in the region can tackle problems facing smallholder farmers such as low incomes and living standards, poor nutrition, housing and health and education.

Partnerships with international agencies have helped to revive the country's irrigation schemes after years of neglect. Irrigation development, despite the numerous challenges encountered, augurs well with the country's National Agriculture Policy Framework and the drive to make Zimbabwe a middle-income economy by 2030.

Tapping dam water for irrigation and sand abstraction systems to improve access to water and food cropping can also help Zimbabwe to meet its Sustainable Development Goals on hunger and poverty, creating jobs and improving livelihoods as well as ensuring environmental sustainability.

Source - the herald
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