During a public event on February 10, USAID announced the launch of the Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED) – a three-year initiative designed to curb the rate of groundwater abstraction in the Ararat Valley to sustainable levels. USAID Armenia Mission Director Karen Hilliard, Deputy Minister of Nature Protection Simon Papyan, representatives of the central government, regional authorities of Armavir and Ararat provinces, and local and international organisations attended the event.
USAID’s recent assessment of the status of groundwater resources in the Ararat Valley – the country’s key agricultural hub – has indicated an alarming situation. The decreasing level of the groundwater supply and the uncontrolled use of artesian water by fish farms has left some 30 communities in the Ararat and Armavir marzes without reliable access to drinking or irrigation water.
In addition, these water shortages pose a real threat to the country’s agricultural sector, the socio-economic and environmental well-being of these regions, as well as the safety and security of Armenia’s sole nuclear power plant, Metsamor, which relies on these water resources for its cooling system. Despite recent measures by the Armenian government to regulate the use of artesian water in the valley, the situation remains serious and is among the Armenian Government’s top priorities.
USAID’s new ASPIRED project will assist the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of these vital groundwater resources. The project will focus on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms.
ASPIRED will also conduct an inventory of the wells and springs in the Ararat Artesian Basin, create a publicly accessible integrated data system for the valley, install an automated control system for monitoring groundwater abstraction in ten selected fisheries, and pilot innovative technologies for efficient groundwater and energy use. Policy recommendations will be provided to the Armenian government to optimize fees for underground water use by fisheries and introduce stricter water permit practices and oversight.