The mountainous lake, which is vital for the country’s ecosystem, is a key source of irrigation water mainly supplied to the fruit-growing Ararat Valley through the Hrazdan river flowing out of it.
An Armenian law allows the government to use no more than 170 million cubic meters of Sevan’s water annually for irrigation and power generation purposes. A draft amendment to the law approved by the government last week would raise that cap by 75 million cubic meters for the current irrigation season.
The National Assembly controlled by the ruling Civil Contract party is expected to pass the amendment later this month.
Speaking at a July 29 cabinet meeting, government officials said that a summer drought compounded by very high temperatures has led to a serious shortage of water stored in Armenia’s artificial reservoirs that are also vital for the agriculture sector.
As of August 1, the total volume of water available there was down by almost 36 percent from the same period last year, they said, adding that the 170 million cubic-meter limit set by the current law will be used up within days.
June 2021 was the hottest June on record in Armenia. The resulting drought has already had a severe impact on cereal and vegetable crops as well as forage available in mountain pastures.
Scores of farmers in various Armenian regions have regularly staged angry protests for the last several weeks against a serious lack of irrigation water supplied to them.
The Ministry of Environment estimates that the planned use of extra 75 million cubic meters of Sevan’s water for agricultural purposes would lower the lake’s water level by at least 5 centimeters.
Evelina Ghukasian, the director of the Institute of Hydroecology and Ichthyology at the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, acknowledged on Monday that this will adversely affect Sevan and its ecological balance.
“But one must also take into account the situation in the country and this unprecedented warming of the climate which threatens harvests in the Ararat Valley,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Ghukasian said at the same time that growing use of Sevan’s water is not a sustainable solution to Armenia’s agricultural problems. She said the country should refurbish and modernize its aging irrigation networks that waste huge amounts of water.