University of Colorado Boulder researchers are advancing water resource management in the South Caucasus through a partnership with Deloitte Consulting.
The professional services firm is implementing a US Agency for International Development Armenia activity titled Armenia Improved Water Management for Sustainable Economic Growth program and is tapping CU Boulder’s environmental engineering technical expertise to improve river, lake, and groundwater management in the former Soviet Bloc country.
Deloitte has a longstanding relationship with CU Boulder that includes the joint Climate Innovation Collaboratory, founded last year. On the Armenia activity, Deloitte issued to CU Boulder researchers a five-year, $641,000 subcontract.
“We’re making recommendations on technology and methods that can improve Armenia’s water resources,” said Evan Thomas, an associate professor, director of the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience and the principal investigator on the contract.
At Deloitte, their Chief of Party Armen Varosyan said the overall project represents a major opportunity for Armenia.
“We are excited for the potential to bring innovative international technology solutions to Armenia’s water sector,” Varosyan said.
Much of Armenia’s current water infrastructure dates back to its time as part of the Soviet Union. Thomas and a team of CU Boulder researchers recently returned from a 10-day trip to the country, where they met stakeholders and visited key sites, including Lake Sevan, the largest body of water in Armenia.
“It’s a gorgeous country. It’s not dissimilar from Colorado, with mountainous areas and a lot of agriculture,” said Kat Demaree, a project manager and CU Boulder environmental engineering PhD student who was part of the delegation.
Outflow from Lake Sevan is a key source of hydroelectric power and water for agriculture in the country, and was one focus of the visit.
“The lake water level has declined significantly because of overuse,” Demaree said. “Historically there’s not a ton of monitoring of water sources there. They want to better understand how much water they have, where it’s going, who is using it, and how it’s being used.”
Those are important questions familiar to water resource managers all over the world. Demaree said emerging technology makes finding the answers much easier than before.
“They have similar issues that we do here in Colorado – overpumping, overuse. We have software now to help people make decisions and look into the impact of building new infrastructure, new reservoirs, new diversions. We can model the effects of regulations. In Armenia we did a training on Riverware, a modeling program developed at CU Boulder,” she said.
In addition to leveraging engineering expertise, the team is also hoping to boost engineering education in Armenia. They met with faculty at multiple universities there to discuss potential collaborations.
“We want to help build classroom modules and credits specific to the needs of students there, things like water management in agriculture,” Demaree said.
The ultimate goal is to expand the country’s homegrown population of engineers.
As the program progresses, the team will be working to develop relationships with experts in the country, map out official recommendations, and implement infrastructure pilot projects.
“There are a lot of different technology options and solutions, and everything has advantages and disadvantages,” Thomas said. “We’re really working to build partnerships, to build those connections in Armenia to offer the right solutions that will work for them.
Additional CU Boulder faculty researchers involved in the project include Karl Linden, Amy Javernick-Will, and Carlo Salvinelli, all from the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.