Veolia Djur requests that the tariff for drinking water be set at 209 drams (over 50 cents) per cubic meter instead of the current tariff of 200 drams. In substantiating the bid, the company said that during the first six months of this year prices of goods and services in Armenia have increased by 8.3 percent.
Ashot Ulikhanian, head of the Public Services Regulatory Commission’s (PSRC) tariff policies department, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Tuesday that the commission has 80 working days to make a decision on the company’s request and it will take another 30 days for the decision to be implemented. The official did not rule out that in order to prevent the second rise in water tariffs within a year the government will decide to subsidize it.
“Discussions are also needed with the government to find ways of offsetting [the company’s losses] in conditions of the high inflation to prevent another rise in water tariffs,” Ulikhanian said.
The French company managed the water and sewerage network of Yerevan for 10 years since 2006 before taking over the national network in 2017 for a period of 15 years. The company committed to reduce water losses, which, according to the PSRC, amounted to about 80 percent five years ago and now amount to about 70 percent. Veolia Djur also undertook to invest at least 37.5 billion drams (over $90 million according to the current exchange rate) in the overhaul of the system.
Despite managing to phase out Soviet-era water rationing in most of Yerevan, the company has heard criticism in Armenia over the lack of 24-hour water supply in many areas as well as frequent emergency cutoffs, especially during hot summer months.
The issue of irregular water supplies in some areas like Goris and nearby villages have recently been raised even by the country’s ombudsperson.
Veolia Djur has not yet responded to a request by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service to answer this criticism and elaborate on its latest request to raise the water tariff.
Armenian officials have not commented on the company’s request either. Before the 2018 parliamentary elections Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged that there would be no rise in water tariffs in Armenia until 2024.
After last year’s water tariff rise by 11 percent Pashinian said it was a necessary step to avoid a potentially much bigger increase in three years’ time.