Akosombo Dam spillage: a necessary evil


Thousands of residents along the lower basin of River Volta have been displaced by the river’s overflow resulting from a spillage exercise carried out by the Volta River Authority (VRA) at the Akosombo Dam, which is still ongoing.

The VRA embarked on a controlled spillage exercise to maintain a stable water level in the Akosombo Dam, an exercise it has described as crucial to protect the dam’s integrity and technological installations on the site.

The spillage exercise, which is a disaster mitigation plan, started on September 15, 2023 at a very low rate without any significant impact on the downstream communities – until October 10, 2023 when six spillage gates were opened to increase the flow as water-inflow to the reservoir kept increasing and levels got close to the maximum capacity that the dam can take.

This decision, even though it has destructive implications, was a very necessary evil as the alternative option has a more dire outcome.

According to management, the dam – which generates about 120 megawatts of hydropower for the national grid – is at risk of becoming a Cos-90 if the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) of the facility is not executed urgently.

“We began controlled spillage of water from the Akosombo and Kpong Dams owing to high inflows into the reservoir, resulting in the water level exceeding its upper level. The spillage is to prevent the water from overtopping and compromising the dam’s integrity,” stated the authority.

Akosombo Dam Capacity

To put matters in perspective, the Akosombo Dam’s storage capacity is 150 billion cubic metres (m3). What’s currently being taken out is about 6,600 m3 – representing 0.000004 percent.

In other words, the dam’s installed depth status is 277.50 feet (ft) or about 84.405 metres. On September 15, 2023 when spillage commenced, the water level was 272.50 ft or 83.058 metres. Spillage started with a discharge rate of 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs/day), and currently the rate is at 183,000 cfs/day.

Impact of Spillage

The immediate impact of heightened spillage tempo is an overflow of the river’s banks – displacing several settlements in about nine different district assemblies of the Volta and Eastern Regions – including North, Central and South Tongu District Assemblies; Shai Osudoku and Ada among others.

The spillage has affected almost all communities along the lower Volta Basin, resulting in widespread power-cuts in affected communities.

The GRIDCo sub-station at Fievie, Sogakope, in the Volta Region, has been inundated with floods, leading to the station being shut down.

With the absence of electricity, public installations – including hospitals in Sogakope and Adidome – are bearing the brunt of flooding, leaving the lives of patients in danger. The floods have cut off some communities as road networks are completely out of sight. This has left commuters stranded, with others resorting to the use of boats and canoes without protective life-jackets; which further endangers their lives.

Many houses have been swallowed by the raging floodwaters in communities such as Tefle, Wume, Sokpoe, Alikekope, Agorme and Agbave among others.

Notable hospitality facilities affected by the floods include Villa Cisneros, Sogakope Beach Resort and Spa, and Holy Trinity Spa and Health Farm.

At least 25 nurses were evacuated from the nurses’ quarters at the Comboni District Hospital in Sogakope.

The volume of water spilled from the dams has also caused some lagoons in the Keta basin to overflow their banks, leading to flooding in many communities in the Anlo and Keta districts.

While this destruction may sound very worrying, it is the lesser of two evils. In other words, a necessary evil.

Deputy Chief Executive-Services, VRA, Kenneth Mensah Arthur said: “It is either we allow the water to go and find ways of mitigating the impact downstream, or watch it overtopping and compromising the dam’s integrity. When this happens, the dam will collapse – and that would wipe out the whole area, killing millions of people in the Eastern, Volta and Greater Accra Regions”.

VRA Relief Support

The VRA visited some of the affected communities including Mafi Dugame, Kebegodo, Atsemkope, Akpokope, Devime, Avadiwoekome, Siamekope and Bekpo – all in the Central Tongu district of the Volta Region – to present some relief items; and also donated same to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) for distribution to all affected communities and individuals.


This is not the first time VRA is spilling water from the Akosombo Dam. Spilling water from the dam was done in 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1991 and more recently 2010. These were all done to prevent water from overtopping the dam.

With this backdrop, the VRA developed the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP), which is in three phases. Under phase-one, spillage is unusually very low and must not exceed 5,000 m3. Phase-two falls between 5,000 to 10,000 m3 and phase-three is any volume above that.

Deputy Chief in charge of Engineering and Operations, VRA, Edward Obeng Kenzo, explained that in line with the EPP and standard operating procedures, before commencing the spill operations, formal letters were sent to all stakeholders at both national and district levels, including all communities and people living downstream from the dams to inform them of the impending spillage.

“The spillage began at a low rate for about one and a half weeks, with no impact on downstream communities. However, inflow into the reservoir continued to increase at a higher rate and therefore there was a need to increase the spill-rate to slow down the rate at which the reservoir elevation was rising. This has resulted in flooding some communities downstream of the dams,” he said.

He added: “The authority wishes to reiterate that it aims to save the dams’ integrity when the water inflow is too much”.

Deputy Minister of Energy, Herbert Krapa, while commending VRA for the decisive initiative to spill excess water and save the dams, stressed the importance of the authority providing relief items for the victims.

He also indicated that government will support VRA and NADMO to ensure that all affected persons are well taken care of. “At this moment, the most important thing to do is to protect this national asset,” he emphasised.

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