Strategies used at 18-MW Rwegura hydroelectric facility in Burundi to deal with low water levels

An official of the Regie de Production et de Distribution d’Eau et d’Electricite (REGIDESO), Burundi’s water and electric utility, said as of mid-June the water level at the reservoir of the country’s largest hydro project, the 18-MW Rwegura hydroelectric facility, has dropped 3 m from more than 11 m earlier in this year.

The Rwegura Dam impounds the Kitenge River in the northern province of Kayanza, Burundi, and as a result of low water levels, the facility is employing strategies with which to deal with the lower than normal levels.

According to the project’s manager, Celestin Nshimirimana, one of the strategies operators are employing is alternating the use of the three 6 MW turbine-generators in the powerhouse.

“Depending on the needs, we can operate only one [turbine] or two and in so doing, we save the water. Therefore, we will continue to supply energy normally,” Nshimirimana said, in locally published reports.

But he also said, “this is not alarming because we still have more than 8 m of water level in the reservoir.”

Commissioned in 1991, the Rwegura facility produces half of the East African country’s total hydropower capacity, estimated at 32 MW. According to Nshimirimana, the plant has continued to supply the necessary energy to its users. But, only 3% of the Burundi population has access to electricity, which in 2016 the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division estimates is inhabited by 11.6 million people.

Burundi is in the African Great Lakes region, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

REGIDESO officials hope the reservoir’s water level will increase by September or October at the expected beginning of the rainy season.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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