LUSAKA Oct 8 (Reuters) – Zambia and Zimbabwe drew more water than they should have from the Kariba dam to generate electricity, draining the reservoir to 29 percent of its capacity in September, compared with 70 percent capacity last year, an engineering body said on Thursday.

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The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) ordered utilities in the two countries to cut generation in March this year, but the rule was not immediately implemented, Engineering Institution of Zambia (EIZ) president Bernard Chiwala said at a media briefing.

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When the EIZ team visited Kariba North Bank power station on July 20, power generation was 760 MW instead of 500 MW prescribed by the regulator, Chiwala said.

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“Despite restrictions on water use, the power utilities continued to generate way above the revised threshold of 500 MW leading to a net draw down of the reservoir,” Chiwala said.

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An electricity shortage and weaker copper prices have put pressure on Zambia’s mining industry, threatening output, jobs and economic growth in the southern African nation.

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Zambia’s energy minister Christopher Yaluma said in September that due to below average rainfall during the 2014/2015 season, water inflow into the reservoir was not enough to meet power generation until the end of 2015.

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Zambia’s power generation capacity stands at 2,200 MW, with the bulk produced from hydropower, but supply is often erratic.

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Zambian power companies and mining firms in August agreed to cut power supply to the mines by 30 percent due to a power deficit which rose to 985 MW in September from 560 MW in March.

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EIZ is an independent engineering group mandated by law to, among other things, investigate engineering emergencies and suggest remedial measures in the interest of the public.

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