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Lake Malawi records lowest water level in a decade

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Erratic rains due to climate change, global warming and persistent dry spells have resulted in the lowest water levels in Lake Malawi in 10 years.

Speaking on the sidelines of a national interface meeting on piped water services in Malawi organised by Kalondolondo, Director of Water Resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Modesta Kanjaye, said although the country has abundant fresh water in Lake Malawi, free water available after evaporation that can be utilised or flow into the lake has drastically dwindled.

“The highest water level Lake Malawi has ever recorded is 477 metres above sea level (masl) in 1980 and the lowest is 469 masl in 1931 but the levels have been dwindling and the lake has failed to pick up so much so that this hydrological year it is at 473 masl, the lowest in a decade,” Kanjaye said.

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Kanjaye said 60 percent of the water in Lake Malawi comes from rainfall while 40 percent comes from run-off from rivers of which 52 percent comes from Tanzania. He also said about 2 percent of the water in the lake comes from Mozambique while the rest comes from Malawi.

Kanjaye said it was hoped that with rehabilitation of Kamuzu Barrage at Liwonde, the lake levels would be raised by 40cm. So far, government has done several detailed studies to construct dams and water conservation structures on Songwe, Wamkulumadzi, Diamphwe, Lambilambi, and Mombezi rivers, amongst others.

Kalondolondo Steering Committee Chairperson, Ronald Mtonga, said piped water services in Malawi will continue being negatively affected if policies are not prioritized to meet people’s water needs.

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“After this national water interface meeting, we will go into stakeholder action mapping to strategize on the recommendations and views gathered from all the district and regional interface meetings,” Mtonga said.

He said the Kalondolondo programme was coming to an end but the steering committee will sit down to map the way forward whether to find another donor after phasing out of Department for International Development (DfID)-funded period or assimilate its programmes among the instituting partners.

Kalondolondo Programme Manager, Jephter Mwanza, said there have been good and bad outcomes from the initiative in agriculture, water services and electricity, among other issues they tackled.

“We have already registered success as some of the issues we discussed during district and regional interface meetings have been rectified by the water boards such as platforms for interface with the consumers and toll free numbers,” Mwanza said.

He said the programme was happy with the responses from the water boards and government although water quality monitoring remains a problem due to government having inadequate resources.

Kalondolondo held 24 interface meetings on water reliability, quality and pricing and bills management, with over 14,214 people consulted.

The meetings established that Thyolo has the most unsatisfied water consumers while Mulunguzi Dam is the most reliable water source in Malawi while Dwangwa has the worst quality water that is heavily contaminated with manganese.

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