How New Water Code Will Be in Context of Climate Change and Adaptability?

How New Water Code Will Be in Context of Climate Change and Adaptability?

What changes are envisaged in Water Code in the context of climate and adaptability, what new game rules are set for the construction and operation of small hydropower plants, what changes are expected in the areas of secondary water use and water saving?

Lilit Abrahamyan, Head of Water Policy Department of RA Environment Ministry and Sevak Matilyan, Acting Head of Water Use Permit Unit of Department of Licenses, Permits and Agreements of RA Environment Ministry covered these issues in the course of expert roundtable on "Institutional Management of Water Resources in the Light of Climate Policy" held at EcoLur Press Club on 16 March. According to Lilit Abrahamyan, in order to mitigate the effects of climate change on water policy, Environment Ministry is working on the use of water-saving technologies, the protection of aquatic ecosystems and the conservation of water resources.

In 2019, Concept on Introduction of Water-saving Technologies and Action Plan underlying the Concept was developed and approved by the Government of the Republic of Armenia. The concept introduces a number of water-saving technologies. The project established measures for the introduction of drip irrigation, installation of online flowmeters in fish farms, introduction of water saving systems, including small to medium reservoir construction and secondary water use measures,” she noted.

According to Lilit Abrahamyan, the envisaged amendments to Water Code will refer to the provisions of secondary water use. "We are trying to develop incentive mechanisms for the return of water resources flowing out of the water user as a result of economic activity for another purpose, to invest in double-circulating systems.

Work is currently underway to include SHPPs in the list of environmental fee payers. The process of approximation of framework directives is in progress, basin management plans are being developed. Three out of six basin areas of the Republic of Armenia have been approved, the other two are almost ready, whereas by 2023 we will have the last one remaining - North Basin Management Plan. The plans are developed in accordance with the model of management plans approved by the government, which includes the provisions of climate change and adaptability assessment," Lilit Abrahamyan said.

Within the frameworks of "Support to SHPP-relating reforms through the dialogue of public and RA Nature Protection Ministry for Sustainable Use of River Ecosystems” project, “EcoLur” Informational NGO examined 125 SHPPs.

Lilit Abrahamyan mentioned that outlining the importance of the impact of climate change on ecosystems, amendments to Water Code were adopted in 2019, whereas the Ministry took into account the issues identified during those studies.

“In 2019, Water Code laid down the grounds for refusing the issuance of water use permits for SHPPs. According to the Code, permits are denied for the construction of small hydropower plants, which are envisaged in the forest, landslide, in the immediate central zones of Lake Sevan, on the rivers of red-listed, endemic fish spawning grounds, on rivers overloaded with diversion pipes by over 40%. The process is still going on.

The list of rivers prohibited for the construction of small hydropower plants, which are spawning grounds for red-listed and endemic fish species, as well as rivers with a load of more than 40% through diversion pipes, has not been approved yet," the presenter noted. Lilit Abrahamyan expressed hope that the list of rivers circulating for a long period of time and having been again submitted to RA Prime Minister's Office, will finally be approved.

Speaking about the amendments to Water Code, the speaker noted that they have developed grounds for denying water use permits for the construction of SHPPs in specially protected areas of nature (SPANs) and areas without a management plan.

"Until the management plans are approved, the overall assessment of the water resources in those areas is quite difficult. The provision of WPs is even more imperfect. Until the approval of management plans, we are trying to ban the construction of small hydropower plants in those areas," she said, adding that, at the same time, work is underway to develop a method for assessing the self-cleaning capacity of rivers.

A participant to discussion Sevak Matilyan, Acting Head of Water Use Permit Unit of Department of Licenses, Permits and Agreements of RA Environment Ministry, mentioned in his speech, “4-5 years ago, 1 in 10 applications for WPs for irrigation could be for drip irrigation. Today, 6 out of 10 applications are for drip irrigation. In Ararat Valley, there is a tendency to submit applications for WPs for fish farming from the drainage system, which was previously missing. When it was decided not to provide new WPs for fish farming, fish farms began to adapt to the new requirements and use the water of the drainage system for secondary purposes for fish farming.”

Referring to the volumes of water supplied to SHPPs, expert Rosa Julhakyan asked, "Whether the capacities of the turbines are taken into account when calculating the water demand for issuing the WP, because, as a rule, a lot of water is supplied, but due to the poor condition of the turbines, the corresponding electricity is not produced." In response, S. Matilyan said that the water volume is provided in the maximum volume. “If the amount of electricity laid down in the license is not purchased from the entity, the latter will be subject to fines and penalties. So naturally they will do their best to produce the electricity provided for in their license." Roza Julhakyan noted that the studies conducted by EcoLur showed that 35-45% of small hydropower plants did not have the equipment provided for in their projects.

Inga Zarafyan, President of “EcoLur” Informational NGO, added that the businesses did not produce their electricity due to the lack of adequate water in the river. “The river resource is not properly valued, as flow data from the 1950s are taken for evaluation. People are investing a lot of money, serious technologies, while the water calculations have not been done correctly, the hydrological resource of the river has not been estimated correctly. The river is just drying up, there are very gross violations," she said.

EcoLur Expert Victoria Burnazyan inquired whether water meters are currently installed in SHPPs at the environmental flow or water intake point. According to Sevak Matilyan, the water meter is planned to be installed at the water intake point. According to Lilit Abrahamyan, as a result of legislative amendments, Water Code will require the installation of an online water meter-flow meter at the environmental flow point.

Arevik Hovsepyan, President of “National Water Cooperation” NGO, inquired from the speakers whether the impact of climate change on the water source was assessed during the provision of the WP. Sevak Matilyan responded that if the drying up of springs due to climate change is visible or predictable, the water user will be informed. "However, the ministry cannot predict that the spring may dry up in two years," he said.

Eduard Mesropyan, Director of "Jinj" LLC, in his turn, mentioned that before providing WP from any underground water source, they are obliged to have a hydrogeological study of that water source. According to Sevak Matilyan, such a document is available, but it does not mention whether or not there will be water in the given source in 5 or 6 years.

"These are approximate forecasts. Therefore, we cannot be responsible for the source that will have dried up in 6 years," he said. Lilit Abrahamyan added that the responsibility refers to the fact that the water user cannot demand from the ministry as much water as it had 6 years ago.

Eduard Mesropyan noted that in order to talk about the impact of climate change on water resources, we must analyze at least once how many WPs have been provided, especially in vulnerable regions, what water use is, what impact it has or may have on water resource vulnerabilities in the future. Lilit Abrahamyan responded that in the process of amending Water Code, a legal regulation will be given to the provision of new WPs, and the impact of climate change will be taken into account when evaluating WP applications.


March 26, 2021 at 12:16