On average, Armenia has sufficient water resources. Taking into account all available water resources in the country, Armenia has sufficient resources to supply approximately 3,100 cubic meters per capita per year. All the rivers in Armenia are tributaries of the Araks and Kura Rivers. Most rivers are small, rapid, and fed by melting snow, springs, and groundwater.

Surface Water Resources

The overall river flow (originating within the country) has been estimated at 6.78 billion cubic meters. This is in part driven by the estimated 16.7 billion cubic meters of precipitation, with less than 10.8 billion cubic meters lost by evaporation (USAID 2008). An available 1.19 billion cubic meters originates from outside the country via the trans-boundary Araks and Akhuryan Rivers. Note that there are discrepancies with regard to this baseline water balance across various reported sources. These water resources are not evenly divided in space and time. Water resources are stressed, particularly in the densely populated Hrazdan River basin in the central part of the country (Ministry of Nature Protection 2010).

There is also significant seasonal and annual variability in river runoff, including frequent droughts and risk of flooding in the spring, when about 55 percent of total annual runoff occurs during the peak snow melting period. The ratio of maximum to minimum flow can reach 10:1 (Ministry of Nature Protection 2010). In order to address temporal variations in river runoff, the country has built 87 dams with a total capacity of 1.4 billion cubic meters. Most of these dams are single purpose, mainly for irrigation. Thirty-five reservoirs have capacities greater than 1 million cubic meters (MCM), and three have capacities greater than 100 MCM.  There are 9 incomplete dams, 28 dams at the design stage, and a further 67 dams for which feasibility studies have been undertaken that were planned or prepared during the Soviet era (UEDA 2012). For the Government of Armenia, the highest-priority dams for irrigation expansion and conversion from pump to gravity schemes are the Kaps, Vedi, Yeghvard, and Selav-Mastara. These are currently being financed (for pre-feasibility studies and designs) or considered by several international donors.

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan has environmental, economic, and social significance and is an important multipurpose water reservoir for irrigation, hydro-power, and recreational uses. The level of Lake Sevan fell dramatically due to excessive use during the period from 1930 to the 1980s, resulting in serious environmental and ecological problems, including deterioration of water quality, destruction of natural habitats, and loss of biodiversity. Starting in the 1980s, programs to stabilize and raise the lake level were initiated. This includes the construction of the Arpa-Sevan and Vorotan-Arpa tunnels, transferring up to 250 MCM and 165 MCM, respectively, and outflow limits up to 170 MCM per year. As a result, the level of Lake Sevan has been steadily rising since 2001. Over-fishing continues to be a major problem in the lake.

Groundwater Resources

Armenia also has considerable groundwater resources, which play an important role in the overall water balance. About 96 percent of the water used for drinking purposes and about 40 percent of water abstracted in the country comes from groundwater (ADB 2011). Groundwater contributes an estimated 4 billion cubic meters. At present, the knowledge on availability and quality of groundwater resources in the country is limited due to the lack of monitoring. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, groundwater monitoring stopped for over 20 years and has only restarted in the last 8-9 years. In the last nationwide assessment of groundwater resources in the 1980s, total groundwater resources were estimated to be 4.0 billion cubic meters per year, which included 1.6 billion cubic meters of spring flow, 1.4 billion cubic meters of drainage flow, and 1.0 billion cubic meters of deep flow (USAID 2008). In the critical Ararat valley, deep groundwater resources are estimated to be about 1.8 billion cubic meters per year (USAID 2014). This supports drinking water supply, irrigation, fish farming, and other economic activities in the area.

Water Resources Management

Water resources management in Armenia is executed by the Ministry of Environment, through the Water Resources Management Agency (WRMA) and six basin management organizations (BMOs).

Since 2002, a number of reforms have been made in Armenia aimed at sustainable and adequate management of water resources. Armenia has substantially undertaken structural revision of the water management agencies, made a number of legal reforms and implemented new management tools  such as Water Use Permits.

See more information on the process of water resources management in Armenia: the booklet “Water Resources Management in Armenia” presents major reforms of the recent 5 years in the water resources management and protection in Armenia, as well as the work of the Water Resources Management Agency of the Staff of the RA Ministry of Nature Protection.