12 October 2015

Tanzania Closes Hydropower Dams Due to Low Water Levels

Tanzania, one of the least developed Nile basin countries, is experiencing such low water levels this dry season that it has stopped operating hydropower generation. The country has less than a 1/4 according to the BBC report, and upwards of less than 1/2 according to a Reuters report about a recent deal with the Chinese to expand the current natural gas movement. Of the mainland 50,000+ population covered in the electricity network and produces only a fraction of the electricity it consumes, hydropower accounts for more than 1/3 of this electricity according to the BBC. From the recent BBC article quoting a local Tanzanian paper: "The country consumes 870 MW but it only currently generates 105 MW..." although the numbers are suggested to be significantly different in a more optimistic Reuter's report, Tanzania is expanding their gas network within "a plan to add about 2,000 megawatts of new gas-fired electricity generating power by 2018 to increase Tanzania's generating capacity to 10,000 MW by 2025." It is hard to distinguish the actual numbers, but country leaders are hopeful that the shift from relying on the renewable and increasingly unreliable water resources for power to gas is a move to solve the country's power shortages and black outs.

The cause for the problem with water? Changing precipitation, caused by global climate change, perhaps coupled with unaltered water extractions for agriculture. Tanzania has one of the world's most progressive water resources management practices enforced in many of its water ways. Plans for new dams in Tanzania or further water exploitation development will need to be rethought in such a climate. Recent discovery and exploitation of natural gas in the southern part of Tanzania are all the country can rely on, possibly for the next two months, for domestic power generation. However some people say that the exploitation of this resource has not been completely exploited by the domestic capacity, and foreign investment is just in the beginning phases.

Meanwhile, the rainy season is not expected to begin until December, two months from now.