Feature Article of Saturday, 30 September 2006
Columnist: Kwakyi, Kwaku
This is a rejoinder to GNA’s (via Ghanaweb) news item entitled “Water Level of Akosombo Dam”.
I have noticed that these news items are published almost daily, underscoring the importance of the great Akosombo Dam in Ghana’s electricity supply. To proceed, here are details of the water level on Monday 25, September 2006:
Current Level (25th September, 2006) - 240.00 feet
Previous Level (24th September, 2006) - 239.85 feet
Maximum Level - 278.00 feet
Minimum Level - 240.00 feet
Due to the significance of Akosombo Dam to VRA and our country’s development needs, it is imperative to find a lasting/long term solution. Although there are many ways to resolve this problem, there are two options VRA may consider to help maintain minimum level of water (240.00 feet) or preferably plus 5-10% more (i.e. 252-264 feet):
1. Pumping downstream water back to the dam
2. Construct a smart canal to divert downstream water back to the dam
VRA can compute cost of pumping water shortage (e.g. 0.15 foot on 24th September, 2006) of water from downstream water. Compute the net benefit of generating electricity (i.e. revenue minus cost of diverting downstream water). Compare net benefit with cost of buying energy from the Ivory Coast and other sources. Based on the result, decide if it is worthwhile to keep Ghanaian VRA technicians employed and independently generating our own electricity than importing electricity from others.
Instead of constantly calculating water shortage and using inadequate electricity to pump downstream water back to the dam, VRA could consider constructing a smart canal. This canal will require very minimal power, if any. It is strictly a physical structure, allowing downstream water to seek its level and flow back to the dam. NOTE: When the canal is well constructed (a small feat compared to the dam itself), it will literally serve as another Volta tributary needed to keep water level adequate and reliable electricity generation. Because the downstream water is the same as upstream water, there should not be any marked environmental risks. For the opponents of the canal option here is a question: Is there an environmental issue for current process which uses downstream water from Burkina Faso's upstream dam? If not, why not at least investigate the canal option? If yes, please figure out how to eliminate/minimize this known risk.
Again, the flow of canal water will mimic that of a typical Volta tributary. Should there be overflow of water the existing overflow mechanism will kick in. Part of the canal water may be processed into potable water for our people and for export (e.g. Ghana to Export water to Togo (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=111291)
I think it is essential for us to keep our long-term objective clear and succinct - ensure adequate and reliable water level at the dam(s) long term. Building a smart canal to divert downstream water to the dam will help to maintain reliable generation of 1,400MW electricity (compared to 950 MW in times of water shortage) from Akosombo. After the initial canal construction cost, maintenance will be minimum and can be included with general dam maintenance.
I understand VRA dismissed the idea of diverting downstream (through pump?) water back to the dam. Thus, VRA’s recommendation is to seek power supply elsewhere (e.g. Ivory Coast). One wonders if we should continue to allow others (i.e. Ivory Coast) to determine the security of our electricity needs. How will this reliance impact our drive to achieve middle income status in 2015? WE MUST ACT SENSIBLY! For readers with direct contact with government officials, I suggest that you consider sharing this water diversion scheme especially through canal construction with these officials.