Mazowe Dam, a major dam in Mashonaland Central province, is at 40,9 percent full despite improved inflows into other inland dams due to above normal rains received in the 2020/2021 cropping season.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) spokesperson Mrs Majory Munyonga told The Herald last week that poor rains in the catchment area of the dam upstream had led to a decline in water flows.
“The dam had dropped to as low as nine percent at the beginning of the current rain season,” she said. “In addition to the dam having dropped so sharply in the past year, the dam’s catchment has received below normal rains in the current season, leading to highly subdued inflows into the dam.
“The performance of Mazowe Dam’s catchment area in the current season is in sharp contrast to that of most parts of the country.”
A rainfall update by the Meteorological Services Department as at the March 17 2021 showed that the Henderson Research Rainfall Station upstream of Mazowe Dam had measured a cumulative rainfall amount of 484,3mm which translates to 57 percent of the 853,4mm normally expected at that time of the year in this agro-ecological zone.
This means the catchment area received below normal rainfall despite other parts of the country receiving above normal rains.
Henderson Research Rainfall Station, is one of the five stations out of the 85 meteorological stations to receive the least rainfall accumulation in the country during this season.
“Ordinarily Mazowe Dam requires two seasons of normal rains to fill up,” Mrs Munyonga said. “With the current depressed levels at the dam, there is need to create a balance between the levels and the water abstraction in the coming irrigation season.
“Farmers that irrigate using Mazowe Dam are encouraged to obtain water abstraction agreements ahead of the upcoming winter cropping season, which will allow ZINWA to efficiently and sustainably allocate the water in the dam amongst the competing requirements of users.”
The falling water levels in Mazowe Dam have largely been attributed to back–to–back droughts that have ravaged the country due to climate change.
Other hydrological experts say the dam is very close to where the river starts and there are not many tributaries that could help boost inflows into the dam.
They argue that the low inflows into the dam have little to do with illegal mining activities and other unsustainable environmental practices.
On the other hand, environmental critics suggest that widespread riverbed mining activities and rampant abstraction of water from boreholes upstream in areas such Hatcliffe, Glen Forest and Christon Bank had led to siltation and reduced inflows into Mazowe Dam.
It holds 39 million cubic metres of water and has a surface area of 445 ha when full.
The dam which last spilled in April 2018, had recorded the lowest inflows among all the major in-land dams in the country.
It was built across the Mazowe River in 1918 for irrigating citrus plantations and other crops such as maize, soya beans and wheat.
It is a concrete arch dam which also offers a number of recreational activities for both local and international visitors who throng the area all year round.
The recreational activities include fishing, bird — viewing and sight — seeing of mountains and a variety of natural vegetation as well.