Over the years water provision at the Hwange National Park, in Zimbabwe, has had a huge bearing on wildlife population numbers. A successful trial run was completed for the use of solar engines with fuel reduction being one of the main objectives.
The project aims to supply water for wildlife during the dry season in the Park. The trial run showed that the engines can meet the demand for wildlife. Water provision in Hwange has played a key role in the ecosystem since the first borehole was sunk in 1935. It is in this light that Wilderness Safaris sees the need to install a further two solar engines with backup generators at Little Samavundla and Madison pan.
Researcher: Courteney Johnson
Water is a huge component of survival during the dry season in the Hwange Park. There is a high mortality rate at this time due to the lack of water among wildlife. The provision of water in the Hwange system has had a good impact on the population of elephants, which are highly dependent on water. Other water dependant species have also increased especially within the Wilderness concession areas as shown by the full moon counts conducted annually.
The use of solar engines has many benefits which range from financial savings, carbon footprint reduction to less noise and air pollution from the old conventional engines. Last year a solar engine was installed at Scott’s pan with a backup generator and in the month of September and October a total of 220l of fuel was used. This was a 57% drop in fuel use as compared to the previous year. It is because of this reduction that Wilderness Safaris is motivated that the project would benefit from having more engines running on solar engines in the area.
- Installation and monitoring of solar pumping systems in the area.
- Optimal water provision for wildlife.
- Investigating the impacts of pumping on the water table.
- Monitor water extraction rates.
The two proposed water holes have boreholes already. The project will only involve setting up the solar units. These will be placed close to the current boreholes.
Two solar units, with a combined capacity of 3 758 Watts, were installed this past year at Mandundumela and Scott’s pans. Mandundumela is a new site that is situated outside Wilderness Safaris’ concessions; however the reason for this installation was to promote water provision in an area in which in previous years, wildlife has died due to lack of water. The nearest pan (which usually has water in the dry season) to Mandundumela is 11 km away, hence the importance of this installation.
The pump was installed in the month of September 2017 and a total of 9 546 cubic metres of water had been pumped as of 3 March 2018. As a result of this installation, we have seen an increase in the wildlife numbers in the Mandundumela area, while at the same time vegetation changes are occurring around the water pan.
Scott’s Pan had a solar system installed in the month of August, which also had a backup generator so as to maintain the water level. The solar system was installed to reduce the amount of diesel that was being used by the engines at the waterhole. To date – from August 2017 to February 2018 – a total of 340 litres of fuel has been used; this has reduced consumption by 33% compared to the previous year, in which a total of 1 030 litres (August 2016-February 2017) was used. In terms of water production, a total of 20 224 cubic metres of water has been pumped as of the end of February 2018. Other benefits that have resulted from the conversion to solar include reduced noise pollution as well as a reduced carbon footprint. Overall, this conversion at Scott’s Pan has seen a reduction in costs for the game water supply project and there can be no doubt that further solar installations will have a positive impact.