Published: June 6, 2024 By

Research Professor Edith Zagona introduced modern water management approaches during a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-sponsored visit to Armenia.

The weeklong visit, from May 20-24, included a seminar for the students and faculty of Yerevan State University, as part of cooperation with USAID’s Improved Water Resources Management for Sustainable Economic Growth in Armenia program. Students from other partnering universities, including the National University of Architecture and Construction in Armenia and Armenian National Agrarian University, also attended the meeting.

"It was important for the CU Boulder team to better understand the needs of the Armenian government and their stakeholders for improving water management," said Zagona, a research professor in CU Boulder's Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and the director of CU Boulder's Center for Advanced Decision for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES).

The program is led by Deloitte LLP, which, among other areas, specializes in helping government agencies mitigate the impacts of climate change and achieve their climate equity, resilience and sustainability goals, with technical assistance from University of Colorado Boulder.

During the visit, the CU Boulder team also participated in a stakeholder workshop, where they shared and discussed best practices in water resources management with state and academic stakeholders. The topics covered included innovative digital tools, activities planned within the USAID Program for managing and improving water resources in Armenia, access to water-related data, existing challenges, and issues related to transboundary water resources management and monitoring.

The program’s objective is to improve Armenia’s water management by ensuring equitable access to water while protecting freshwater resources, said Kat Demaree, a project manager at CU Boulder's Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience, who is part of the team working closely with the USAID-sponsored program along with Teaching Assistant Professor Carlo Salvinelli. The CU Boulder team is providing technical and advisory services, including training, applied research and analysis, support for local communities, engagement with the private sector and partnerships with universities.

"Poor water resource management in Armenia has led to the overuse of existing resources, creating an urgent need to reshape how natural resources are managed and distributed," Demaree said. 

Armenia’s rural communities are running out of water for irrigation and drinking due to uncontrolled and excessive use by fish farms and pollution caused by untreated mining tailings. Climate change exacerbates the situation further. Insufficient water flow also means some hydroelectric plants cannot operate at full capacity, leading to economic losses for power producers. Currently, about 30 communities in the Ararat Valley and 85 communities in the Syunik region are experiencing serious water shortages, she added.

The visit was particularly significant for establishing the academic program for the Armenian students enrolled in the CU Boulder online graduate certificate program in global engineering. The program was launched this summer with the first cohort of Armenian students, who have received approximately 95 percent tuition reimbursement through Mortenson Center and USAID Program grants. 

The Mortenson Center provides multiple pathways for engineers to enter the field of global engineering including through its online certificate curriculum. Courses offered to students and working professionals of Armenia under this program include water profession (leadership and management), introduction to water quality, water monitoring technologies, introduction to water resource management, simulation modeling, introduction to development economics and data analytics for development. The program also includes a practicum, allowing selected students to intern with the USAID Armenia Improved Water Management for Sustainable Economic Growth program. 

Read the Yerevan State University story