In a project aimed at fortifying the safety and reliability of the Lunyangwa Dam, the Malawi Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) has enlisted the services of SMEC to develop a comprehensive Dam Safety Management Plan. The initiative is part of the NRWB Water Efficiency Project, funded by a loan from the European Investment Bank.

Constructed in 1992, the Lunyangwa Dam serves as the primary water source for the piped water supply system in Mzuzu City, Malawi, catering to the needs of over 250,000 residents. With the population in the catchment area expected to surge, projections indicate a potential increase to 500,000 people by 2030, prompting the NRWB to proactively address the growing demand for water.

To meet this increasing demand, the NRWB plans to enhance the Lunyangwa Dam's water storage capacity. The proposed modifications include raising the embankment and spillway height by 1.5m, thereby expanding the reservoir's volume from 4.36Mm³ to 5.54Mm³. This infrastructure upgrade is vital to ensure a sustainable water supply for Mzuzu City.

With loan financing from the European Investment Bank, the project aligns with the NRWB Water Efficiency Project's overarching goal of enhancing water resource management in the region. The dam expansion serves as an interim measure to meet the city's water needs while securing financing for a long-term water supply solution.

Key components of the Lunyangwa Dam enhancement project include:

  • Raising the concrete spillway by 1.5m.
  • Construction of a 2m parapet wall on the existing dam crest with fill behind it.
  • Inlet modifications at the intake tower.
  • Reinstatement of dam monitoring equipment and instruments.

SMEC will deploy a team of Dam Safety Experts and specialists to formulate a Dam Safety Management Plan compliant with the Malawi Dams Safety Act, 2015, and the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) guidelines. The designs for raising the dam and spillway heights have been prepared by other qualified entities.

In adherence to ICOLD requirements, the Dam Safety Management Plan encompasses four integral components: an Instrumentation and Monitoring Plan, Operations and Maintenance Plan, Dam Break Study, and Emergency Preparedness Plan. SMEC will conduct simulations of various dam break scenarios to evaluate controlled and uncontrolled water releases, prioritizing the protection of life, property, and the environment.

Recognizing the importance of technology transfer and capacity building for sustainable operations and maintenance, SMEC will develop a comprehensive training program. This program aims to upskill NRWB staff selected as counterparts in the project, ensuring the continued safety and efficiency of the Lunyangwa Dam.

The Dam Safety Management Plans are scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2024.