Water levels at the Kariba dam that straddles the Zambian and Zimbabwean border dropped to 12 percent of capacity on Jan. 18, the authority in charge of the world’s largest man-made reservoir said.
Levels fell to 477.25 meters (1,566 feet) above sea level from 482.83 meters a year earlier, data posted on the Zambezi River Authority’s website show. The minimum operating level for the hydropower dam, which normally supplies about half of each country’s electricity demand, is 475.5 meters.
Low rainfalls and overuse of the water by the power plants at the reservoir have left it near empty, raising the prospect that they may have to shut down. An El Nino weather system rated as one of the strongest since 1950 has reduced precipitation in the dam’s catchment areas and disrupted crop production in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Flows of the Zambezi river that feeds the dam were 20 percent lower on Jan. 18 than a year earlier at the Victoria Falls, according to the the river authority.
“The lake levels continued declining at a slow pace during the week under review due to rainfall activities around the lake,” it said.