Hydropower-to-environment water transfers in the Zambezi basin

About Power2Flow

This research project analyzes the reallocation of water between the hydropower sector to the environment in the Zambezi basin, the third largest basin in Africa, shared by 8 countries, where large reservoirs and hydropower stations have altered the hydrological regime and disrupted the ecosystems and new hydropower plants are planned.

It is indicated that the existing dams already pose a risk to particular areas in the basin including the Kafue flats (upstream of Kafue Gorge dam), Middle Zambezi floodplains (downstream of Kariba), and the Lower Zambezi floodplains and delta (downstream of Cahora Bassa) where the main users and concerns were identified as ranging from small-scale agriculture, coastal and freshwater fisheries to biodiversity and public health interests. Implementing hydropower-to-environment water transfers in the Zambezi requires the development of new reservoir operating policies that should help restoring degraded ecosystems in the lower Zambezi without undue adverse impacts on hydropower generation. The latter is a critical issue considering that much of the energy generated in the Basin can be exported to neighbouring countries through the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). This basin offers an opportunity, through the existence of organized stakeholders, (power authorities, power companies, and environmental NGOs) to influence both the operation of existing dams and the design of new ones.