On December 16, USAID’s Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED) organized the presentation of the final results of the inventory of the wells, natural springs and fisheries in the Ararat Valley. The inventory was conducted by the Hydrogeological Monitoring Center of the Ministry of Nature Protection with an attempt to obtain the data on the groundwater resource use and the actual volume of water abstraction at different water use points. The inventory is a critical step towards establishing publicly accessible database on the groundwater resources and supporting the data-driven decision making by the Government.
About 70 participants from the Ministries of Nature Protection, Agriculture, Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources, the President’s office, representatives of international organizations, NGOs and academic institutions attended in the event. The Minister of Nature Protection Artsvik Minasyan emphasized the synergic efforts of USAID and the Government towards more sustainable management of the groundwater resources of Ararat Valley. In her welcoming remarks the USAID Mission Director Deborah Grieser acknowledged the effective collaboration between the ASPIRED Project and the Ministry of Nature Protection in spearheading the development of an up-to-date transparent data system on the Ararat Valley that will provide public access to the data on the groundwater resources.
The event became a forum for а constructive dialogue between the government and the civil sectors on acute issues such as the environmental and strategic importance of the groundwater resources of the Ararat Valley, the balance between the resource conservation priorities and the economic development challenges of the country, the responsibilities for illegal use and anti-corruption measures to be taken by the Government. The issue of the groundwater resources of the Ararat Valley has been gaining an increasing attention of different sectors of the society, including academic institutions, the civil sector and the donor community, ever since the fact of irrational and unregulated use of the high quality groundwater reserves of the country by the fisheries had been voiced out publicly. Given that the groundwater resources of the Ararat Valley have strategic importance for the country in terms of energy and food security, this issue has become one of the priorities topics on the Government agenda.
The ASPIRED and the HMC ensured the widest possible coverage of the inventory. As the state agency, the HMC had access to the privately-owned fisheries and gain the real water use data, thus ensuring high-quality and objectivity of the inventory results. Responding to the participants’ criticism of the Government and questions regarding the follow-up steps, the Deputy Minister Simon Papyan mentioned that in the short-term the Government will plan the response actions upon several facts identified in the inventory report, such as existence of numerous abandoned leaking wells, the need for the proper conservation of inoperable wells full of stone, soil and debris, and the cases of illegal water use. The inventory data will serve the basis for determining the optimal volume of the groundwater abstraction from the Ararat Artesian Basin and setting realistic limits for users.
In the nearest future, the ASPIRED plans to work on the preparation of the Digital Hydrogeological Map by the ASPIRED as well as development and calibration of a 3-dimensional model of the Ararat Valley groundwater basin in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey. The Final Inventory Report and the database will be submitted to the Government in January 2017.