CHIREDZI – The water levels of Lake Mutirikwi, Zimbabwe's largest inland lake, has lowered to 12.6 percent which might risk sugarcane production next season if the country does not receive good rains in the forthcoming rainy season.
Statistics released by the Zimbabwe National Water Supply Association (ZINWA) indicate that the lake's dam level is currently at 12.6 percent and might continue to decline since the water is used for both domestic and irrigation purposes by Masvingo urban residents and Chiredzi sugarcane farmers respectively.
ZINWA said the lake holds 79 980 mega litres out of its total capacity of 1 378 082 which means the dam has so far lost more than 1 298 100 mega litres of water.
The Operations Manager at Zinwa Runde Catchment Area, Jonathan Juma said the situation has forced his organisation to implement tough water rationing.
He revealed that Zinwa is now releasing only 10.1 cubic metres of water per second against the 32 cubic metres per second which is released when water levels are optimal.
Juma said Zinwa may be forced to stop releasing water for irrigation if the situation in the lake fails to improve so that the little water left can be spared for the domestic needs of the city of Masvingo and the town of Chiredzi.
"The sugar industry is being severely affected by the situation at the lake and as we speak, the farmers have reduced their raw water consumption to 43 percent of what they normally require because all the small dams are already empty," Juma said.
Though no comment could be obtained from Tongaat Hullet Corporate Affairs Manager, Adelaide Chikunguru, Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Association (ZSDA) Chairperson Addmore Veterai said farmers were already using water-saving techniques in order to keep their cane alive.
"As sugarcane farmers, we are now in our harvesting period which means the yields that might be affected is next year's yields but we are fighting to stay on top of the situation.
"We have already adopted water conservation methods because we know that if rains do not come early, we could be in serious trouble," said Veterai.
Manjirenji dam, which irrigates more than 4 000 hectares of sugarcane plantations in Mkwasine, is virtually empty, meaning there is more pressure on the remaining water bodies.
The El Nino-induced drought has ravaged most parts of the country, with small dams and boreholes in rural areas drying up.news