How much water Armenia loses in the irrigation system, what steps are taken to reduce water losses, what programs are discussed for efficient irrigation, water solution to climate change, and how much water is planned to be taken from Lake Sevan this year. Karen Daghbashyan, Deputy Chairman of Water Committee of RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, addressed these issues during the expert round table on "Institutional Management of Water Resources in the Light of Climate Policy" at EcoLur Press Club held on March 16.
Water losses in the irrigation system of Armenia constitute 40-45%, most of the reasons underlying are the system inherited from the Soviet years, the selection of incorrect crops, 70% of intra-household system flowing in land waterways, and the final reason is not cultivating and loosening the culture, as Karen Daghbashyan said.
The systems were built during the Soviet years, they were built to irrigate large areas of land. Today the problem of losses arises because the system is not adapted to small fragmented farming. That is why we are cooperating with Economy Ministry. "The idea of merging land areas in the fields, the enlargement of land areas and the creation of cooperatives is circulated, which will make it easier to bring water to that land," he said.
In reply to the question asked by Inga Zarafyan, President of "EcoLur" Informational NGO, whether the owners will agree to that program, the speaker answered, "We have land areas from 500 meters to 1.5 hectares. Each water user voluntarily grows a crop, but does not follow the market demand, grows a crop that consumes too much water for the area. During the Soviet era, crops were grown that were less water consuming. And now tomatoes are grown in the same area, which is watered 35-40 times instead of 15. We have huge water losses there. We want to implement such programs that the water users themselves want to switch to new water-based irrigation equipment, drip irrigation or irrigation. Kaps and Vedi reservoirs to be built will have these pilot systems. The system has already been built in Baghramyan-Noyakert, the installation of the drip system has only remained. We are trying to save water used from water resources to manage it properly so that we do not have significant losses there.”
Armenia has an irrigation system of about 17,000 km, water lines and canals, out of which 450 km are main canals, 2,000 km are inter-household water lines, and about 14,000 km are intra-household canals. More than 70% of that 14,000 km system is on land, where the lion’s share of our loss constitutes. "We have 250-260 mechanical water production facilities with 700 units. We operate 94 self-drilling wells in Ararat Valley," he said.
Speaking about the amount of water that entered Lake Sevan in 2020 and the water intake to be carried out from Lake Sevan this year, Karen Daghbashyan said. "Last year we were able to direct about 210 million cubic meters of water through the two Arpa-Sevan tunnels to Sevan. As for the water intake from Lake Sevan this year, we will try not to exceed the threshold of 170 million cubic meters. We hope we will not experience that problem."
"Armenia's location is such that the Aghstev, Debed, Arpa, Vorotan, Araks rivers flow into neighboring countries, we can use only 2.5 billion of the formed water. We need to focus our efforts on reservoir and pumping station projects. Today, about 1.6 billion cubic meters of water leaks from the drainage system in Ararat Valley, which is almost drinking water quality. Maybe we will set up a system to raise the water again from below to provide water to the people through our canals during the season," he said.
According to Karen Daghbashyan, currently 69 reservoirs are under the state ownership of the Water Committee, out of which 14 are operated by Jrar company, the rest are operated by regional water companies. "We have the capacity to store about 1.2 billion cubic meters of water through these reservoirs, but as a result of global climate change, 950 million cubic meters of water is collected in the reservoirs. The water volume has decreased in almost all reservoirs. We are experiencing a huge problem in Akhuryan-Araks reservoir. In 2019-2020 we faced a serious problem, as thanks to the system it created, Turkey is able to store the water that reaches us. The regions of the upper regions of Talin and Armavir are facing the problem of water, as there are no other water sources there," the speaker said. He also noted, “The cadastral irrigated area is 194,796 hectares. 151 thousand hectares out of which are in the service area of water companies. In 2020, 85,000 hectares were actually irrigated.”
Diana Harutyunyan outlined, “We need to change our approaches. Maybe it is better to subsidize the result rather than the water use, that is, to subsidize the crop. The same goes for switching to overnight irrigation. If the price of night light is cheaper, the same can be said for water as a stimulus for night use. It is possible to change the attitude of people towards water without endangering food security, but to use economical tools in a reasonable way. Are there any thoughts on such economic tools?" she asked.
Responding to her, Karen Daghbashyan replied that the Water Committee had entered the stage of developing a strategy. "We are studying different tools. Floating tariff options are under discussion. It is envisaged that the tariff for water for farmers working for their own needs will be different, whereas the water tariff for businesses will be different," he said.
Referring to the possibility of night irrigation through canal pumping stations, Karen Daghbashyan noted that it is not possible to turn the system on and off, as the length of the system is more than 50 km. "If the water is turned on at the head, it will reach the water user in 12 hours, in which case we experience huge losses. In order to maintain the continuity, we have proposed to the Government of the Republic of Armenia to build 32-day regulation reservoirs, which will store unused water at night and will supply it to water users during the day.
Vedi reservoir with the capacity of 29 million cubic meter is currently under construction. If all goes well, construction will be completed next year. "The construction of the 25 million cubic meter Kaps reservoir will commence soon, which may become 60 million cubic meters as a result of further negotiations," he said.
Karen Daghbashyan emphasized that the Water Committee does its best so that the interests of the water user do not suffer as a result of global warming.
Karen Daghbashyan mentioned that internal losses can be settled in case of money. "The lost water goes to our soil, moistens it. If there is money, we will think about improving the system. Today, two of those reservoirs are Argitchi and Astghadzor reservoirs, which are being built in Martuni. There we solve the problem of liquidation and small-scale fish destruction through three pumping stations taking water from Sevan. "If we build Yelpin Reservoir, we can store all the waters of the Arpa River and dictate our game to the neighbors," Karen Daghbashyan said.
April 12, 2021 at 19:24