USAID AND USGS COLLABORATION TO BUILD GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT CAPACITY FOR ARMENIA

USAID and USGS achieve significant milestone in their collaboration targeted at strengthening groundwater management capacities for Armenia. On August 29-30, the US USGS Dakota team provided a webinar to Armenian specialists on the hydrogeologic framework, the groundwater management options and next steps toward development of the groundwater-flow model for the Ararat Artesian Basin. Participants of the webinar were the representatives of the ASPIRED Project, Environmental Monitoring and Information Center and Water Resources Management Agency of the Ministry of Nature Protection, and Yerevan State University.

The webinar was conducted as part of a joint project between USAID and USGS on strengthening the groundwater management capacity in Armenia’s Ararat Valley which is aimed at summarizing the groundwater resources, characterizing the hydrogeologic framework and conditions of groundwater resources in the Ararat valley and building the in-country technical expertise for a more effective management of the groundwater resources. In February-March 2016, the UGSG team visited Armenia to meet with the stakeholders, collect in-country data and conduct the training for the local specialists on well inventory and water quality sampling protocols.

The USGS experts made a detailed presentation of the hydrogeologic framework of the Ararat Artesian Basin and the methodologies used to develop the complex hydrogeologic structure of the area using sophisticated tools ASPIRED team contributed vast amount of data to USGS, including available geologic maps, lithologic data from wells, well records and logs, groundwater-level measurements and other information collected and complied by the ASPIRED Project through the 2016 inventory of wells, natural springs and fish farms. As noted by Janet Carter, Deputy Director for Studies of USGS Dakota Water Science Center, “Data from inventory is phenomenal in a sense of detailed description of groundwater levels and groundwater use in the Ararat Valley.” “We were able to use most of the datasets provided by the Armenian partners in our study, which is exceptional. For other countries we would be able using from 2 to 8% of datasets available,” Joshua Valder, Hydrologist, Groundwater Specialist of the USGS Dakota Water Science Center said.

The hydrogeologic framework report, which is a result of incredible effort invested by the USGS Dakota Water Science Center, will be published online in an open access. It is the first step towards developing the groundwater-flow model of the Ararat Valley, which is a critical tool for more informed management decisions on strategic groundwater resources.

Request for Proposals

Ձկնաբուծական տնտեսության ջրահեռացման համակարգի ձևափոխման և դրենաժային ջրանցքի պատի ուժեղացման համար

ԱՄՆ միջազգային զարգացման գործակալության ֆինանսավորմամբ իրականացվող «Գիտական առաջադեմ տեխնոլոգիաների օգտագործում և համագործակցություն հանուն ռեսուրսների համալիր պահպանության» (ԳԱՏՕ) ծրագիրը հրավիրում է մասնագիտացված տեղական կազմակերպու­թյուններին գնառաջարկներ ներկայացնելու Արարատի մարզի Հայանիստ գյուղի հարևանությամբ գտնվող ձկնաբուծարանի ջրահեռացման համակարգի ձևափոխման և ձկնաբուծարանի հարևանությամբ գտնվող դրենաժային ջրանցքի պատի ամրացման համար:

Պահանջվող աշխատանքների մասնագրերը և ծավալները, ինչպես նաև առաջարկվող գործարքի պայմանները ներկայացված են կից փաստաթղթում՝ Hayanist_bank_RFP_arm

Hayanist Unveils Innovative Irrigation System

« 1 of 2 »

During a public event on May 22, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Armenia (CCHBCA), and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme in Armenia (implemented by UNDP) marked the successful completion of a joint water project in Hayanist, Ararat. This is part of USAID’s broader efforts to curb the rate of groundwater abstraction in the Ararat Valley to sustainable levels.

Studies show that the groundwater reserves of the Ararat Valley are quickly disappearing. More than 30 communities are facing a shortage of water for drinking and irrigation. Reduced irrigation hits farms hard, negatively impacting the rural economy of Armenia and the nation’s food supply.

Hayanist is the first village in Armenia to practice an unconventional method of irrigation by reusing the water from a nearby fishery to meet the community’s irrigation needs. The project helped address a longtime irrigation issue by building a new pumping station at the water discharge point of the fishery, while conducting a quality analysis to ensure the water meets necessary quality standards for irrigation. The project also installed a new, more efficient irrigation pipe network as well as provided community training on sustainable farming practices.

Thanks to these efforts, the new system now benefits roughly 120 local households and irrigates 40 hectares of land that were left idle for two decades due to insufficient water supply. The project has also assisted the community in establishing a public-private partnership with the fish farm to support the more responsible use of groundwater in the Ararat Valley in the years to come.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. joined local residents and other dignitaries – including Ararat Governor, Aramayis Grigoryan, Hayanist Mayor, Babken Sargsyan, USAID Armenia Mission Director, Deborah Grieser, CCHBCA General Manager, Christoph Speck, and UNDP Resident Representative a.i. in Armenia, Dmitry Mariyasin – for the celebration event in the village.

“The residents of Hayanist should feel proud,” Ambassador Mills said at the ceremony. “They are pioneers, the first community to put in place this method of irrigation using water from a nearby fishery. The project not only increases the water available for irrigation, but makes water use by the fisheries more efficient. Due to this effort, the community will not require additional water be pumped from the ground to irrigate their fields. It will also save electricity and help reduce soil degradation. Your actions will safeguard Armenia’s vital water reserves, allow the development of the region’s agriculture sector and serve as an example of the innovative solutions we can develop when we work together as partners and friends.”

Guests visited the new pumping station at the fishery and walked through the fields to see the new irrigation system in use.

“This pilot initiative contributes to environmental sustainability by reusing discharge waters from fish-farms. It not only prevents land salinization and water-logging, caused by the excessive volume of discharged water in the Ararat Valley, but also returns abandoned farmlands to cultivation, becoming a major source of income for community residents. We hope that this demo project will serve as an example for reforms in the water management sector and be successfully replicated in other communities of Ararat region,” Dmitry Mariyasin, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. in Armenia, said during the opening event.

CCHBCA supported the implementation of the water project as part of the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with USAID and the Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia in July 2016. Under the Memorandum, partners committed to improve water stewardship across Armenia and contribute to the conservation, efficiency, and management of the depleting water resources in the Ararat valley.

“Giving back to the community and contributing to its socio-economic development is an important part of our corporate culture. We are proud to be a part of this essential initiative. This project is particularly important for us, as water stewardship is one of the key pillars of Coca-Cola Hellenic’s sustainability commitments. I was very glad to see that some of the inhabitants have already managed to renew cultivation of their lands and I believe further improvement of life conditions of Hayanist community will follow, thanks to this partnership,” General Manager of Coca-Cola Hellenic Armenia Christoph Speck noted.

Water Resources Management Agency to Discuss New Monitoring Initiative with Fisheries

On February 16, the Water Resources Management Agency (WRMA) of the Ministry of Nature Protection conducted the working meeting with the fish-farming sector representatives to introduce the automated online system for the centralized monitoring of the groundwater use. Piloted with support of the USAID Advanced Science and Partnership for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) Project and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Armenia, the new online system will be installed at 20 water use points in the fisheries of the Ararat Valley.  This project is included into the list of environmental measures planned under the Government’s Program of Priorities for 2017.

The head of the WRMA specified that fish farms enrolled into the pilot project will not bear any costs associated with the installation and maintenance of the system till the end of the ASPIRED Project. In the future, all fish farms will be obliged to install the online automated systems at their water use points. The meeting was to encourage the dialogue between the Government and the business representatives. It gave opportunity for the owners of the fish farms to express their concern over the new regulatory measure, particularly future costs to be incurred by the businesses. Discussions also unveiled facts of large-scale corruption during the issuance of water use permits in the past.

The newly introduced automated online system will provide the real-time data on actual water abstraction from a particular water use point, immediately revealing cases of over-abstraction. On the other hand, the WRMA can revise the water use permits for those fisheries where the actual consumption will be reportedly below the permitted level. The installation of the online automated system is intended to reduce corruption risks and strengthen the monitoring over the groundwater use in the Ararat Valley.

Online Monitoring System to be Introduced in Fisheries in 2017

The Ararat Valley of Armenia represents the most significant reserve of the groundwater resources of the country. The groundwater extraction in the Ararat Valley has reached unprecedented level in the recent decade, having caused the reduction of the artesian zone by more than 60%. The groundwater level dropped by 9 meters on average, thus leading to tremendous water shortage in the Valley. This overuse of water was largely accounted for by the extensive spread of fish farms in the area. For many years, the fish farms have been using high-quality groundwater in fish production without proper regulation and control.

In response to the situation, starting from 2014, the Government of Armenia has been approving a set of policy and regulatory measures aiming to reverse the situation, such as revision of the groundwater resource use fees and permit conditions, closure of illegal or abandoned wells and tightening of control. The Government’s Program of Priorities for 2017 anticipated introduction of 20 online automated systems for the centralized monitoring of the groundwater use in the fisheries of the Ararat Valley.  Overall, the Government’s Program contains 140 priority issues , covering economic and social sectors of the country.

The USAID’s Advanced Science and Partnership for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) Project and the Coca-Cola Hellenic Armenia will install the online monitoring systems in 2017 as part of the Memorandum of Collaboration signed between USAID, the Coca-Cola Hellenic Armenia and the Ministry of Nature Protection in July 2016. By the end of the ASPIRED Project in 2020, the USAID will increase the number of online monitoring systems to 40 to include the largest fisheries.  Working online, the new system will allow for the real-time monitoring of the groundwater abstraction by the fisheries vis-à-vis allowable limits. This will improve the overall compliance and enforcement mechanism of water use permits. The data will be publicly accessible.

Inventory of Wells, Natural Springs and Fisheries Conducted in Ararat Valley

picmonkey-collageOn 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. picture-4

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.

High-Level Policy Meeting to Discuss Groundwater Issues in the Ararat Valley

dsc_0618On November 9, the USAID Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED) organized the policy workshop to discuss the current situation with the groundwater resources in the Ararat Valley. The USAID Mission Director Deborah Grieser, the Minister, Chief of Staff Davit Harutyunyan, the Deputy-Ministers of Nature Protection, Agriculture, Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources, other decision-makers, public and private sector representatives attended the event. In her opening remarks, the USAID Mission Director Deborah Grieser thanked the Government of Armenia and the stakeholders for continued partnership and commitment to promote water sector reforms and sustainable water management practices in Armenia. The Deputy Minister of Nature Protection Khachik Hakobyan emphasized that conservation of the groundwater resources of the Ararat Valley has strategic importance for the country and is among the priority issues the Government is tasked with.

The situation with the groundwater resources in the Ararat Valley has been a topic of public discourse for the last couple of years. The field studies showed the artesian zone of the Ararat Valley has shrunk and the groundwater level in the Ararat Valley decreased significantly over the last decade due to uncontrolled use of groundwater in the area, primarily by fish farms. The decreasing level of the groundwater prevented the local communities from access to irrigation and drinking water. Majority of the communities interviewed by the ASPIRED Project in Ararat and Armavir marzes complained that water shortage has been quite significant over recent years.

During the policy meeting, the ASPIRED Project presented the Report “Achieving Sustainable Use of Groundwater in the Ararat Valley: the Role of the Fisheries Sector” – a comprehensive study, where the issue of the groundwater use in the Ararat Valley has been analyzed from different perspectives, the resource conservation needs, the economic analysis of the fish farming sector and its trends, the impact of fisheries on the local rural communities, and the mitigation measures.

The ASPIRED Project addressed the consequences of uncontrolled water abstraction by fisheries and its implications on the groundwater availability in the Ararat Valley, and recommended a set of policy, administrative and economic mechanisms aiming to mitigate the situation. Proposed measures include compliance monitoring of the water use permits conditions, the adoption of increasing block pricing structure, encouraging a more sound use of groundwater resources by means of modern water saving technologies, and liquidation of abandoned wells that have flows.

The changes in the water fees alone will not result in sustainable use of water in the Valley. There is a need for the new prudent water sector management policy in the Ararat Valley and enhancement of the water use data transparency and reliability. For example, online monitoring system will allow for a real-time groundwater use tracking in the fisheries of the Ararat Valley. Thus, the possibility of corruption, fraud and over abstraction of water by some irresponsible players will be minimized. The water resource conservation objectives are best achieved when the systemic approach is implemented to resource management using a combination of policy, control and economic instruments.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE AND SAFETY TRAINING IN HAYANIST

ASPIRED Project Environmental Specialist briefs the project counterparts on environmental and safety regulations.
ASPIRED Project Environmental Specialist briefs the project counterparts on environmental and safety regulations.

On September 27, the ASPIRED project conducted the training on environmental compliance, health and safety requirements in Hayanist village. The on the job training was intended for the representatives of the community, the fish-farm and the sub-contractor involved in construction of the pumping station and installation of pumps who were briefed on the environmental and safety requirements of USAID and the locally adopted construction norms.

Particularly, the ASPIRED Environmental Specialist discussed with the participants the potential environmental impacts of the construction and installation work currently taking place on the fish farm site, including measures for prevention of harmful their effects. The community and sub-contractor representatives were requested to observe the safety norms during implementation of construction activities and electric wiring work to avoid potential accidents.

Due to the specifics of the project, the potential negative environmental impact of the project is insignificant as there will be no major construction work. Small quantity of construction wastes will be stored and disposed properly to the designated landfill by the village. The soil excavated during the pipeline installation will be used for back-filling, and then properly graded and compacted. Additional training will be scheduled for the local companies to be sub-contracted for the trench-work and installation of pipeline.

The irrigation rehabilitation project is implemented with joint funding of the USAID ASPIRED Project, Coca-Cola HBC and Environmental Research and GIS Center NGO. The project is aimed at using the outlet water from the fish-farm located in the vicinity of Hayanist village for irrigation of the community land. The project will provide more affordable irrigation services for farmers of Hayanist community and result in improved living for about 120 households.

PROVIDING SATTELITE IMAGERY OF ARMENIAN ARARAT VALLEY TO ASPIRED

ararat_valley_satell3USAID’s Global Development Lab has been the reliable partner of the ASPIRED Project since the very beginning. Lab’s GeoCenter is a valuable source of technical data for the Project, the aim of which is to promote a more balanced and rational use of the groundwater resources of Ararat Valley.

The GeoCenter has recently provided satellite images for the Ararat Valley catchment, covering the territories of Armenia and Turkey. Dating back to summer 2015, the images are of excellent quality and high resolution (3 meters) and will be used by the team for conducting thorough classification of the land cover and land use of the area. The data on actual land use in the valley will further allow estimating the hydrological balance, including water supply and demand balance on the area to be incorporated into a comprehensive Management Information System (MIS) for the Ararat Valley designed by the ASPIRED Project. These analytical tools are important for making informed and rational decisions on use of available water resources of the Ararat Valley.

The Project intends continuing its cooperation with the GeoCenter for receiving similar imagery for the Kars Plateau, which is an important feeding zone for the Ararat Artesian Basin.