Disaster in Ararat Valley: How It all Started

Disaster in Ararat Valley: How It all Started

As a result of ruthless, unregulated and illegal use of water resources of the Ararat artesian basin, the normal balance of restoration of underground water resources has been threatened in the last 10-15 years. The surface of the underground water area with positive pressure of the Ararat artesian basin was reduced 3 times: from 32,760 hectares (1983) to 10,706 hectares (2013).

About 30 settlements in Ararat and Armavir Regions were deprived of water. About 4,000 hectares of agricultural land has become unusable or waterless. As a result of the lowering of the water horizons in Armavir Region, water intake from the former 136 self-watering wells is already carried out by pumps. The degree of mineralization of water resources has increased, lowering the level of soil productivity. As a result of the lowering of the water level, the Sevjur River is no longer fed by the lake, and the feeding from underground sources has also decreased. These facts were recorded in "Assessment of Groundwater Resources of the Ararat Valley" report prepared within the framework of "Clean Energy and Water" program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Official documents testify that the situation did not improve after the conservation of the deep wells. It is stated in the rationale of  RA Government's decision N1930-A of November 9, 2023: "Calculations and analyzes show that despite the measures aimed at improving the condition of groundwater in the Ararat artesian basin, the deterioration of the condition of groundwater continues. According to observations, as a result of overexploitation of the pressure waters of the depression (drilling of many wells for irrigation and especially for fish farming), the pressures and levels of the groundwater are decreasing. The area of ​​the fountain zone has decreased more than twice, many wells have stopped fountaining."

Fish farms are the biggest consumers of water

In 1984, the State Resources Commission approved the annual limit of 1.0943 billion cubic meters/year of water withdrawal from deep wells, in which case there would be no overexploitation of water resources. However, figures significantly exceeding this permissible limit were recorded 3 decades later, and as of 2013, the water intake in the Ararat artesian basin made up 1.7534 billion cubic meters/year, which exceeded the annual water volume established in 1984 by 1.6 times, out of which more than 60% reached the fish farms.

As of 2016, the total usable groundwater resource of the Ararat valley makes up 926.73 million m/year, which is more than 15% less than in 1984. Out of 1,094.4 million cubic meters of annual allowable groundwater abstraction approved by the State Resources Committee and defined by the 2015 "National Water Program" law.

"According to our data, the volume of water taken from the artesian basin in 2017-2018 was 2 billion 500 million cubic meters," Khachik Danielyan noted.

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Environment, as of December 2021, according to the issued water use permits, 760,713,775 thousand cubic meters/year of water was withdrawn from the underground water basin of the Ararat valley for the purpose of fish farming, out of which 623,547,387 thousand cubic meters/year were taken from Ararat Region, 137,166,388 thousand cubic meters/year in Armavir Region. For the purpose of irrigation, 179965.61 thousand cubic meters/year of water was taken, out of which 85627.79 thousand cubic meters/year in Ararat Region, 94337.82 thousand cubic meters/year in Armavir Region and 17,545,795 thousand cubic meters/year of water intake was carried out for the purpose of operation of the Armenian nuclear power plant.

"The whole Armavir Region buys drinking water from mobile tankers or stationary points. This is a very serious problem. We don't know what water is emptied, what containers are placed, how often they are cleaned," Anzhela Stepanyan noted, Chairman of Sustainable Development of the Region NGO․

The problems of drinking, irrigation water and drainage in Armavir Region are acute and directly affect the quality of life and health of the residents.

The underground waters of the Ararat artesian basin are the only prospective source of drinking water supply in Central Armenia. The springs are used for drinking water supply, so the degree of public danger of overexploitation of the Ararat artesian basin is very high.

June 27, 2024 at 14:06