Water Resources Professional Project Reports

The Kura-Araks Basin: Obstacles and Common Objectives for an Integrated Water, Resources Management Model among Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

Berrin Basak Vener

A Professional Project Report Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Water Resources Policy/Management Concentration, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 2006.


After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Kura-Araks Basin became an international river basin with respect to the South Caucasus states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The main problems in the Basin include not only the quantity and quality of the water, but the lack of internal and joint management and monitoring of the river system. The river system has no uniform allocation and/or management system and no water quality monitoring. These countries also share problems of poverty; political instability; bureaucratic and structural issues; involvement by international and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), individuals, interest groups, and other countries; the historical biases of the people who live in the region; and more importantly, ongoing ethnic, religious, and cultural conflicts. Despite these obstacles, the countries recognize that they depend greatly on this river system, whose waters they have to share. The goal of this project is to define common goals and objectives to create the basis for an integrated water resources management (IWRM) model for the Basin in the South Caucasus using interviews and research. The Kura-Araks Basin is the focus of many organizations and donor groups like the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), World Bank (WB), U.S.Agency for International Development (USAID), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). There are also many ongoing projects and programs in the Basin that support the creation of an IWRM model. These organizations can play a leadership role in the creation and implementation of the IWRM model by building on existing projects and programs. Interviews were conducted with 30 key water resource managers and officials in July 2005 to gain an understanding of each party's current situation and future needs in the South Caucasus. The interview results show that the main obstacle in creating a place of common ground for an IWRM model and/or initiation for the Basin is the lack of trust among the three countries due to the current political situation. Most of the interviewees (93.3%) were very positive about cooperating on trans boundary water management regardless of their country of origin. That is why IWRM is one key to stability in the South Caucasus. An IWRM model can be the foundation for mediation and peace in the future. Only when the parties are ready to discuss and negotiate, however, can the peace process begin.