By Shakeh Avoyan
A state regulatory body approved on Tuesday an almost 40 percent increase in the prices of drinking water in Armenia, citing the need to boost the loss-making network’s revenues.
The decision announced by the State Commission on Public Services means that one cubic meter of water will now cost 125 drams ($0.27) in Yerevan and 140 drams outside it.
The state-run utilities managing water supplies in the capital and other parts of Armenia had asked the commission to allow them to double the fees. They say they still incur substantial losses due to the network’s aging and leaky Soviet-era pipes and also need to offset a decrease in government subsidies.
The water tariffs were already raised from an average of 60 drams last year. The head of the State Committee on Water Resources, Andranik Andreasian, indicated that further price hikes are likely next year.
Yerevan’s notoriously inefficient water operator has undergone substantial structural reforms since 2000 as part of a $30 million plan financed by the World Bank. The bank disbursed last month a fresh $20 million loan for the second phase of the program, saying that it will help to create a “very strong and solid water utility.”
The Armenian authorities had pledged to ensure that at least 80 percent of city residents enjoy round-the-clock supplies of drinking water by the end of last year. But according to the Yerevan Water and Sewerage Network, only 72.4 percent of them now have running water for 24 hours a day.
Anecdotal evidence suggest that the real percentage is much lower. A consumer rights group suggested recently that less than one of third of Yerevan households boast 24-hour supplies.