Celebrated globally on March 22, the World Water Day highlights the importance of water for humanity and promotes sustainable water resource management around the world. This year’s theme for the World Water Day is “Leaving No One Behind” to encourage united efforts that will ensure water availability for all.
Access to water and sustainable management of water resources still remain challenges for Armenia. There is an increasing pressure on the water systems throughout the country for drinking, agriculture, energy generation, and industrial production. One of the country’s priority issues is the critical depletion of groundwater reserves in the Ararat Valley, the country’s key agricultural hub. Based on USAID’s assessment in 2014, the uncontrolled use of artesian water has shrunk the groundwater basin by almost 10 meters on average. Groundwater shortages have serious implications on the country’s agricultural sector, the socio-economic well-being of the region, as well as the safety and security of the Metsamor nuclear power plant which uses the artesian water for its cooling system. More than 30 communities of Ararat and Armavir provinces currently face problems with drinking or irrigation water supply.
The USAID Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) project, managed by the ME&A Inc., assists the Government of Armenia in developing policy and technical solutions for more sustainable abstraction and use of the groundwater resources of the Ararat Valley. The five-year ASPIRED marked this World Water Day through a public event, presenting the project’s mid-term accomplishments in 2015-2018. USAID Armenia Mission Director Deborah Grieser, Armenia’s Minister of Nature Protection Erik Grigoryan, representatives of the Armenian government and water sector stakeholders were in attendance.
During the event, ASPIRED presented the advanced tools it has developed for more informed decision-making on groundwater management in the Ararat Valley: a 3-dimensional model of the groundwater basin and the computer-based Decision Support System (DSS). The 3D model of the Ararat Basin demonstrates the hydrogeologic structure and the water bearing potential of the basin. The DSS allows to assess water availability in natural conditions and analyze both human and climate change impacts on the water resources.
In addition, ASPIRED has completed four water saving projects. The project has introduced the concept of secondary use of fish-farm water for irrigation needs in Hayanist and Sayat-Nova communities, returning 100 hectares of abandoned community farmlands back to cultivation and creating income-generating opportunities for 183 households. ASPIRED has also sealed a damaged artesian well in Sipanik community. With an outflow of 60 liters per second, the well water had been leaking into and flooding the neighborhood for years.
Apart from showcasing modern approaches to water and energy saving and conservation, the USAID ASPIRED project emphasizes the human and environmental impact of its activities which will improve the lives of 23,000 people and help preserve 9.2 million cubic meters of precious groundwater in the Ararat Valley.
Going forward, together with its local partners, ASPIRED is implementing infrastructure projects in four communities of Armavir and Ararat marzes. An innovative aquaculture technology center in Armavir is also underway through joint efforts with a private fishery.