March 22 is World Water Day: Change in Water Flows and Main Tendencies in Different Years

March 22 is World Water Day: Change in Water Flows and Main Tendencies in Different Years

March 22 is World Water Day, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where it was proposed to set a special day to draw human attention to the urgent issue of water resources. The UN approved the initiative and reached a decision in 1993 to celebrate World Water Day on March 22 every year.

Preservation and reasonable use of water resources is an issue for Armenia today. In our country, water flows are decreasing year by year, precipitation is decreasing, temperature is rising due to climate change.

On March 16, EcoLur Press Club hosted an expert roundtable on "Institutional Management of Water Resources in the Light of Climate Policy", during which the main trends in water flows conditioned with climate change, water policy, rational use of water resources and management were discussed.

The speakers at the discussion were Levon Azizyan, Acting Deputy Director of “Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center" SNCO of RA Environment Ministry, Lilit Abrahamyan, Head of Water Policy Department of RA Environment Ministry, Sevak Matilyan, Acting Head of  Water Use Permit Unit of Department of Licenses, Permits and Agreements of RA Environment Ministry and Deputy Chairman of Water Committee of RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Karen Daghbashyan.

Welcoming the roundtable participants, UNDP Climate Change Programme Coordinator Diana Harutyunyan attached much value to the organization of such discussions, which may set prerequisites for further review of Water Code to take into account the climate change factor.

“The main problem for our region, as well as for the Mediterranean countries, is that the competition and demand for water resources will increase with the decrease in precipitation and the increase in temperature, whereas the issues of water resources management will be very important under such conditions. With the rapid development of hydropower, drawbacks committed by Environmental Protection Inspection Bodies, we can see what is happening in river ecosystems. Another issue is the threat to Sevan ecosystem. We must define what we have to do in order to be able to mitigate the risks threatening to water resources in the future, to properly take into account the problems of our economy, ecosystem, population health under the conditions of climate change," she said.

The tendencies of temperature rise, atmospheric precipitation and change of water flows under the conditions of climate change in Armenia were presented by Levon Azizyan, Acting Deputy Director of “Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center" SNCO of RA Environment Ministry.

He noted that “Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center" SNCO regularly assesses changes in atmospheric precipitation, air temperature and underlying river flow, the results of which are summarized in the national climate change reports. According to those estimates, the air temperature in the Republic of Armenia has risen by 1.38 degrees in 1935-2020.

“If the average annual temperature increased by 0.4 degrees in 1935-1996, the average annual temperature deviations were only a positive in the last 25 years, except for 2011, which had a slight negative deviation. The warmest years were 2010-2018, when the temperature was 2.6-2.8 degrees above the multi-year average. According to the results of the regional model used in the SNCO, the temperature is forecast to increase by about 1.5 degrees in Armenia in 2040, 3 degrees in 2070, and 5 degrees in 2100," Levon Azizyan said.

Touching upon the precipitations, Levon Azizyan noted that the picture here is variable: some increase in precipitation was observed in the northeast in Gegharkunik Region, in Aparan-Hrazdan section in Shirak plain, whereas a decrease was observed in other regions. He stressed that there are certain uncertainties in the case of precipitation forecasts, especially in mountainous regions, so those forecasts should be approached with certain reservations.

According to the speaker, a gradual increase in the percentage of river flows is expected in the coming years. "The vulnerability of surface water resources is regularly assessed using the predicted values ​​of temperature precipitation, physical statistics and the USAID-funded decision-making tool.

According to those scenarios, river flow is forecast to decrease by about 14% in the Republic of Armenia in 2040, river flow vulnerability is projected at around 28% in 2070 and at 39% in 2100. If the baseline river flow is about 7.1 billion cubic meters, then, according to estimates, it is predicted that the river flow will make 4.3 billion cubic meters in 2100," Levon Azizyan said.

Referring to the forecasts on Lake Sevan, the speaker said, ““Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center" SNCO regularly assesses the evaporation vulnerability and the river flow of Lake Sevan. The river flow entering Lake Sevan is projected to decrease by about 30-35% in 2100, which will have a negative impact on the lake's vital resources. Evaporation from Lake Sevan due to precipitation and temperature changes was also assessed. According to estimates, evaporation is projected to increase by about 10% of the lake surface in 2040, by 20-25% in 2070, and by 35% in 2100.”

A decrease in the amount of river flow entering the reservoirs during spring floods is projected. According to Levon Azizyan, a decrease of 30-35% is forecasted for 2100 due to the fact that the temperature will increase and the amount of precipitation in the form of snow will decrease. "In the context of global climate change, the maximum filling of three major strategic reservoirs has been estimated. The biggest vulnerability is forecast for Aparan Reservoir. According to estimates, the filling of Aparan reservoir will be about 35-40 million cubic meters in 2100, Azat reservoir - 40-45 million, and Akhuryan reservoir - up to 300 million cubic meters," he said.

In reply to the question asked by Inga Zarafyan, President of "EcoLur" Informational NGO, whether there is any possibility to avoid these scenarios, how to change the water sector policy for that purpose, Levon Azizyan answered, "Adaptation measures include the improvement of irrigation systems, drip irrigation and the transition to arid crops." In this regard, Diana Harutyunyan added that the presence of a temperature rise factor leads to an increase in water demand, particularly in areas that are irreversibly used, such as agriculture.

"It should be understood that issues related to irreversible water use should be a serious part of the agricultural strategy. How we rehabilitate the irrigation system, how much we use water-saving technologies, reusable opportunities, the use of crops in agriculture requiring less water," he said.

Eduard Mesropyan, Director of "Jinj" LLC, a participant in the discussion, wondered whether the problem of groundwater resources and the process of littering in upstream rivers for different purposes had been assessed. In response, Levon Azizyan said that the assessment of littering in groundwater reserves and springs  in the context of climate change has not been done, but “Hydrometeorology and Monitoring Center" SNCO has raised this issue to be discussed in the future and conduct studies to assess the vulnerability of groundwater resources to climate change.

 To be continued

March 22, 2021 at 14:59