Victoria Falls Water Levels 2021
Is the Victoria Falls going to have record water levels in 2021?
30th April 2021
This is my last post for this the 2020/2021 rainy season, as it has essentially come to an end. Rain of any significance is unlikely to fall between now and the beginning of the next rainy season in October.
It's interesting to read back on the posts and graphs from earlier on in the year and see what our expectations were when looking into the future.
The early rains lead us to believe that if they had continued in the same vane, we would have had an exceptionally high water flow this year. However it was not to be and the rains ended in Victoria Falls early and rather abruptly. We had just two downpours in March on the 26th and 27th which produced 18mm and 30mm of rain respectively and none in April.
We don't expect any more significant rainfall in Victoria Falls or even in the upper catchment area for several months now, as we head into the winter season, maybe just the occasional shower. The Zambezi water level wont be rising again until the new rainy season commences around October.
So the water levels are on their way down for this year as you can see from the graph below. We are far from a record season and are in fact looking at quite a low flow of water until the next rainy season. As we head towards November you can see the graph the lines getting very close together. This is normal for the low water season, it's in the high water or rainy season where the big variations comes in.
Even in years of significantly high rainfall by November the Zambezi River drops to similarly low levels, yet almost every year some newspaper reporter or social media fanatic circulates a picture of the Falls drying up, which sends everyone into a frenzy. It's just not true...the same low water level happens every year, the graph below is testimony to that.
18th March 2021
As the season progresses and the early rains have now abated, it looks as though the Victoria Falls will not reach the highs that were initially predicted.
So after my last report written in Mid-February (which can be read below) we see some very interesting new stats.
Rainfall in Victoria Falls continued unabated throughout February 2021, with heavy downpours almost every day. Things were getting damp and mouldy. As much as we love the rainy season, we did long for some sunny weather which we are accustomed to in this part of Africa.
Then all of a sudden on the 3rd of March the rain stopped, the sun came out and beautiful blue skies prevailed.
In the last couple of days we have seen a little build-up of rain and a few isolated showers, but nothing too significant.
In a normal rainy season we would expect to get consistent rain right through March, with a few showers into early April, but this year, it seems that most of the rain has fallen early.
It seemed as though the excessive rainfall in February, which sent the graphs spiralling and predictions of records flows, blew the rainfall out of the sky. We don’t know what is in store for us, rainfall wise, over the next month which is going to be interesting and critical to this year water flow levels.
The graphs below paint a very interesting picture, they start close to the source of the Zambezi and end at Victoria Falls. These records are kept by the Zambezi River Authority and can be found on their website.
Chavuma Mission Station is located in the uppermost catchment basin, close to the Zambezi’s source on the Zambian/Angolan border. Readings show that despite a surge in the beginning of the season, rainfall activity has now reduced and the river flow is dropping below most recent years.
As of 18th March 2021 - 1,623 m3/s were recorded compared to 2,983 m3/s on the same date last year, showing that the river is well below last year’s level at this time.
The second graph below from the Ngonye Rapids station, which is situated approximately 320 kms upstream of Victoria Falls but still downstream of the Barotse floodplains, (which constitute a large part of the Zambezi river catchment basin). Shows that although water flow continued to increase steadily, due to local rainfall activity and inflow from the barotse flood plains it has now started to reduce.
As of 18th March 3,360 m3/s were recorded compared to 4,055 m3/s on the same date last year, showing that the river is marginally lower than last year’s level at this time.
The third graph at Nana’s Farm, which is only 33kms upstream of Victoria Falls shows the river level continued to increase steadily in February. Levels peaked on the 11th and 12th March at 3,597 m3/s but have now started to reduce due to decreased rainfall activity.
As of 18th March 3,487 m3/s were recorded compared to 2,380 m3/s on the same date last year, showing that the river is currently still ahead of last year’s level but if there is no more rainfall we expect the flow to drop further.
The final graph, shows readings at the Big Tree station, just a few hundred meters above the Victoria Falls. The river level continued to increase steadily in February, due to inflow from the upper catchment area and peaked on the 11th and 12th March at 3,597 m3/s but has now started to reduced due to decreased rainfall activity.
As of 18th March 3,483 m3/s were recorded compared to 2,398 m3/s on the same date last year, showing that the river is currently still ahead of last year’s level, hence why the Falls are looking so full of water, so early on.
So in conclusion. The water flow over Victoria Falls is currently higher than normal for this time of year. They are looking very full but unless the rain starts to fall again in great quantities throughout the catchment basin, the river level is like to drop and not reach the record-breaking levels that were predicted early on in the season.
Whether the Falls reach record levels or not, they are mightily impressive this year and we can’t wait for tourists to pour in and see them.
Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe - March 18th 2021
I visited the Victoria Falls yesterday 18th March 2021 and took this photograph above. There is an incredible flow of water and spray, getting any photograph was a real challenge. Water flow yesterday was at 3,483 m3/s but may have maxed out at this level and will not reach the 4,500 m3/s attained at its peak last year.
Victoria Falls Boat Club (10 March 2021) – You can see how much the water has risen compared to the photograph in last month’s post.
15th February 2021
Indications so far show that this world-wonder could reach one of its highest levels in history
In October 2019, Sky and BBC News, reported that climate change could cause the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls, to run dry.
Mother Nature in response to that, saw the Victoria Falls rise to its sixth-highest level since 1961 in April 2020. Because of the global pandemic, which had only really just begun then, only a handful of international tourists were to experience this.
The 2020/2021 rainy season, in Victoria Falls got off to an early and strong start on the 7th October 2020 with a good downpour of 18mm.
If anyone has been in Africa when the first rains of the season arrive, they will know just how magical this event is. The smells are unique and the parched earth seems to be laughing.
After a week though, the rain disappeared for a whole month and we began to wonder if the reports of La Nina weather pattern for this year were false, but there was no need to worry. The rains came back and came back in force.
As of the today, I have personally recorded 648mm at our home in the residential area of Victoria Falls. Others in different areas of town have recorded up to 100mm more than that.
Victoria Falls Boat Club (12 February 2021) - As the Zambezi River rises, most of the grass in the foreground will get covered with water.
The average annual rainfall for this area is about 600mm so we are already above average, with at least six to eight weeks of the rainy season still to go.
What does this mean for the actual waterfall?
Well, the below charts from the Zambezi River Authority show that at this point it is looking like a high water season. However, our local rains do not make the biggest impact on the level of Victoria Falls.
The real big factor is the rainfall in the upper Zambezi River catchment. The Chavuma station (on the Zambia/Angola border) chart below shows that they have also received significant rainfall, well above average at this point.
That mass of water only reaches Victoria Falls in March, April and May, which is why Victoria Falls is always at its highest peak in those months, even though our rainfall season is over by then.
Flow 2426 m3/s (11/2/2021) - Flow 1893 m3/s (11/2/2020)
Flow 1352 m3/s (11/2/2021) - Flow 719 m3/s (11/2/2020)
So by what we are seeing so far, it does look like Victoria Falls is going reach one of its highest levels in history.
When the Falls are that full, it becomes almost impossible to see them through all the rising spray but the sheer power of all the water cascading over such a large chasm in indescribably breath-taking.
We can only hope that some international travellers will be able to witness it this year.