Relief as Lake Victoria water levels recede after destructive record high

Wednesday August 11 2021
Lake Victoria water levels

Lake Victoria water levels started rising in October 2019. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI


Lake Victoria water levels have started to recede after more than 20 months of continuous rise that resulted in floods inundating the shores, displacing communities, destroying properties and also putting a lot of pressure on Uganda’s electricity, physical and transport infrastructure.

As of July 31, the lake was at 13 metres, down from an all-time high of 13.45 metres recorded on May 13.

The authorities have allowed power generation firms at Owen Falls Dam on the Nile River to reduce the water spilling to 2,200 cubic metres per second since July 23, as opposed to 2,400 cubic metres per second released when the lake levels were highest.

Power interruption

“The reduction is actually a positive development for us because it reduces pressure on the dam structures and also reduces the risk of floating vegetation which has in the past interrupted power generation,” said Emmanuel Njuki, Eskom Uganda corporate affairs manager.

Eskom runs the electricity generation concession at Owen Falls Dam (Nalubaale and Kiira power stations).


Lake Victoria water levels started rising in October 2019, up to 12.19 metres, and reaching 12.66 metres by December 2019. On March 6, 2020, a water level of 12.94 metres was registered, only similar to that of March 4, 1964.

Officials at Eskom say the steady rise in water levels led to an increase in the head water levels at Nalubaale and Kiira power stations, which would in turn influence the hydraulic pressures and seepage lines at the dams.

The government said that since October 2019, some 200,000 people from the lakeside communities have been displaced or left homeless after their homes were submerged.

Other developments around Lake Victoria and the River Nile, including hotels, beaches and homes were also flooded and rendered economically unusable.

The establishments submerged include Lake Victoria Serena Gold Resort and Spa, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Protea Hotel Entebbe, Gaba Beach, K.K. Beach, and Miami Beach.

Biodiversity loss

The government attributes the rising Lake Victoria water levels to intensive and prolonged rainfall, as well as human activities, especially environmental degradation, which have led to loss of forest cover, encroachment on wetlands, lakeshores and river banks, poor land use practices, all resulting in soil erosion and siltation of water bodies.

Water and Environment Minister Sam Cheptoris said that besides posing a threat to Uganda’s power generation, the flooding lake came with a huge cost to the government, and posed greater risk and disruption to water transport.

“The increased water level is dislodging papyrus mats from encroached shorelines resulting in a mass of huge floating Islands, which endanger hydropower infrastructure,” he said.

Lake Victoria is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, with about 23 rivers that bring water into the lake, but only one exit through River Nile at Jinja.