Irrigation in Armenia started about 3,000 years ago. Clay pipes were used to convey water to orchards and fields, and some of these water conveyance systems are still intact. In the fourth century A.D. the total irrigated area was estimated at about 100,000 ha, in 1920 it had dropped to 61,000 ha, and in 1988 the area equipped was almost 316,000 ha. At present, the area equipped for full or partial control irrigation is estimated at almost 286,000 ha. The reason for the decrease in recent years has been, on the one hand, the earthquake of 1988 that destroyed part of the area, and on the other, the economic situation due to the transition period, that has made it difficult to keep or maintain the irrigation infrastructure.
On 12% of the equipped area, groundwater is used for irrigation. The remaining part is irrigated from surface water through reservoirs, river diversion or pumping in rivers. The restored stocks of surface waters make 7.2 billion cubic meters annually. 2.3 billion is used (versus the previously used 4 billion sq. m) of which 2 billion cubic meters (3 billion previously) is used for irrigation and for other fields of production and 430.0 million cubic meters (550 million previously) – for drinking and other everyday use.
On over 90% of the area equipped for irrigation, surface irrigation is practiced. Surface irrigation can be divided into four categories: furrow irrigation; border strip irrigation; flooding; and irrigation using hydrants and flexible hose systems. Flooding is used where soil depth does not permit grading of either furrows or border strips. The water is let out over the land by cutting an irrigation head canal at intervals. In the case of irrigation using hydrants, the hydrants are generally spaced in a 50 x 50 m grid and discharge water onto the ground, from where it is distributed by any of the surface irrigation methods. Conveyance of water to the hydrant is by buried steel pipes, but may be by open canals further upstream. Sprinkler irrigation and micro-irrigation are practiced on the remaining 10% of the area equipped for full or partial control irrigation.
Lake Sevan is the most important water resource in Armenia by its size and economic significance. It is a unique source for drinking and irrigation water. The volume of water of Lake Sevan suffered as a result of cruel releases. Therefore, two tunnels were constructed: Arpa-Sevan (1981) and Vorotan-Arpa (2004).
More than 80% of the gross crop growing sector of Armenia’s agriculture is produced on irrigated lands. Therefore, irrigation and efficient use of water resources are among the critical priorities of the country’s economy overall. In 1995, almost one-third of the irrigated area was occupied by permanent crops, mainly grapes. Cereals, mainly wheat and barley, covered a little over one-third of the irrigated area.
Currently, MCA-Armenia performs two projects for the development of Armenian irrigation: Water to Market and Irrigated Agriculture projects. The first one aims to accelerate the transition to more profitable agricultural production in the areas of irrigation rehabilitation by introducing and encouraging best practices in irrigated agriculture, fostering the adoption of improved water management techniques, the shift and/or expansion to higher value crops and livestock, strengthening the post-harvest and processing enterprises linking producers to their markets, both domestic and international, and strengthening the capacity of credit providers to fund viable proposals in production and post-harvest activities. Under the Water to Market activity, 60,000 rural farmers will receive training and observe demonstrations in on-farm water management and will benefit from learning new skills in irrigation.
Irrigated agriculture project aims to reconstruct 17 pump stations in 100 communities of Ararat, Armavir, Aragatsotn, Gegharkunuk, Tavush and Syunik regions. More than 182,000 stakeholders will have reliable supply of irrigated water which will foster the growth of agricultural production and efficient use of energy. For more information visit www.mca.am
1. National Statistical Service of Armenia, available online at www.armstat.am
2. S. Avetisyan “Agriculture and food processing in Armenia”, Limush Publishing House, Yerevan 2010, pages 27-30