Accelerating Ocean-Based Solutions Can Help with COVID-19 Recovery

The world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic this year as 2020 kicks off the UN Global Compact’s reaffirmation of our global commitment towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The UN Global Compact firmly believes accelerating ocean-based solutions can play a key role in recovering better and delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It recently released the Ocean Stewardship 2030 report providing a roadmap for how ocean-related industries and policymakers can jointly secure a healthy and productive ocean by 2030.

The report builds upon the 5 Tipping Points for a Healthy and Productive Ocean. For each tipping point, the ongoing governance and frameworks are outlined, recommendations are put forward, and two critical ambitions are suggested. It also builds upon the Sustainable Ocean Principles, providing a framework for responsible business practices across sectors and geographies, as well as build upon and supplement the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.

ME&A, a participant in the UN Global Compact since August 2018, is proud to commit to high standards and even higher goals in principles on human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption.

World Oceans Day Focuses on Mobilizing Movement to Protect Our Home

World Oceans Day 2020 is being celebrated around the world with the theme “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” Friday, June 8, 2020. Per the World Oceans Day website:

“For 2020 World Oceans Day is growing the global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30 percent of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30 percent of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!”

The purpose of the Day, observed by all United Nations member countries, is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

Visit the World Oceans Day website for more information on the annual celebration and ways to find or plan an event in your area.

ME&A-Led ASPIRED Helps Residents of Armenia’s Ararat Valley Cope with COVID-19

Long-neglected water and sanitation issues in countries around the world are gaining new attention amid the global COVID-19 crisis. Access to clean, potable drinking water 24 hours a day prevents people from having to spend their money or time gathering or buying water in large crowds in violation of social distancing guidelines and also enables them to wash their hands frequently and practice proper sanitation during the pandemic.

ME&A is proud that our work creating innovative approaches to address water and natural resource needs is now enabling the people we serve to better cope with COVID-19. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Armenia’s Ararat Valley where the work of the USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) is helping citizens face COVID-19 more prepared.

“Effective chlorination enabled after installation of modern chlorinators in Aratashen and Yeghegnut improves the safety of water and rules out the danger of water-born diseases that would make people more susceptible to COVID-19,” said ASPIRED Chief of Party Magda Avetisyan. “Previously people used to crowd around water-trucks to buy potable water, thus creating a favorable environment for spreading of the infection. Now the drinking-quality water is available from their taps.”

ASPIRED recently supported the community of Aratashen to install a new pumping station, replace 10 km of corroded piping, and introduce a new consumption-based metering system. ASPIRED also helped build a new water pumping station in the village of Yeghegnut last year along with installing 15 km of pipes, 490 water meters, and  a new billing and collection software for water service.

Avetisyan further pointed to the anti-COVID-19 benefits of the ASPIRED project’s re-use water from fish farms for irrigation in the villages of Sayat-Nova and Hayanist rather than dumping it into the wastewater network. The villages would otherwise face shortages for both drinking and irrigation water, hurting farmers and negatively impacting the socio-economic situation locally and nationally during the pandemic. The Ararat Valley is Armenia’s breadbasket accounting for almost half of the country’s agricultural production.

“Improved irrigation systems provide availability of irrigation water for farmers to cultivate agricultural lands. As part of the project, trainings were provided to local farmers on applying the best agricultural practice in cultivation of crops,” she said. “The latter helps to tackle social consequences of the pandemic and ensure availability of agricultural products, both on a local and national level.”

Other ASPIRED benefits include:

  • Availability of irrigation water in Hayanist, Sayat Nova, Hovtashat, and Pokr Vedi, following the respective ASPIRED projects, increased self-employment opportunities for the rural population, which is critical in this period of self-isolation and possible economic strains.
  • The dramatic reduction (if not elimination) of breakages in the water-supply and irrigation networks, due to the use of reliable technologies and sustainable materials, reduces the manpower input for operation and maintenance, thus cutting-down the opportunities for spreading of the infection.
  • Increased use of online/advanced tools will support operational awareness during the pandemic. The Government of Armenia may make better use of the online system of groundwater use monitoring and the Decision Support System. In addition, the government can make the enhanced State Water Cadaster Information System online and accessible by relevant government agencies for data exchange.

The ME&A-led ASPIRED assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ASPIRED focuses on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. ME&A was awarded the ASPIRED project as a task order under the USAID Water and Development (WADI) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.

USAID Website Features Story on ASPIRED Bringing Armenian Village Potable Water

USAID recently published a story on its website about the Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) project bringing nearly all 3,200 residents of the village of Aratashen in Armenia access to clean, potable water 24 hours a day.

The story on the Armenia section of the USAID website at https://www.usaid.gov/armenia/news-information/news/improving-water-supply-ararat-valley explains how the community worked with ASPIRED to identify the primary barriers to water access – poor infrastructure and insufficient regulation – and sought solutions to address them. ASPIRED then supported the community to install a new pumping station, replace 10 km of corroded piping and introduce a new consumption-based metering system.

The ME&A-led ASPIRED assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ASPIRED focuses on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. ME&A was awarded the ASPIRED project as a task order under the USAID Water and Development (WADI) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.

Earth Day 2020: ‘Climate Change,’ an Enormous Challenge

This Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day 2020 with the theme “Climate Change.”  The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the annual observation’s 50th anniversary.

Due to coronavirus, the following is recommended on the Earth Day website to recognize the day and its 50th anniversary:

“While the coronavirus may force us to keep our distance, it will not force us to keep our voices down. The only thing that will change the world is a bold and unified demand for a new way forward. We may be apart, but through the power of digital media, we’re also more connected than ever. On April 22, join us for 24 hours of action in a global digital mobilization that drives actions big and small, gives diverse voices a platform and demands bold action for people and the planet. Over the 24 hours of Earth Day, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day will fill the digital landscape with global conversations, calls to action, performances, video teach-ins and more.”

On Earth Day, as every day, ME&A supports environmental protection in our offices around the world and in the work we do. ME&A, a participant in the UN Global Compact since August 2018, is proud to commit to high standards in protecting the environment in the workplace, marketplace, and community.

ME&A-Led Team Efforts Help Armenian Community Expand Irrigation Network

Re-using fish farm water for irrigation is showing enormous promise for keeping agricultural land fertile in Armenia’s Ararat Valley, the country’s breadbasket accounting for almost half of Armenia’s agricultural production. Rolling out the environmentally sustainable innovation will result in more efficient use of the valley’s groundwater and bring much needed irrigation water to the more than 30 local communities facing water shortages.

The community of Sayat-Nova has been using recycled discharge water from the nearby Masis-Dzuk fish farm since 2018, thanks to USAID funding and the Fund for Armenian Relief. The USAID-funded Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED), managed by ME&A, built the pumping station at the fishery’s water discharge point and installed the irrigation network for 60 hectares of land. ASPIRED water quality tests show the fish farm water is suitable for irrigation and meets Food and Agriculture Organization standards.

The pumping station ASPIRED built for the Sayat-Nova community.

The pumping station ASPIRED built for the Sayat-Nova community.

About 140 hectares of arid land remains in the community of Sayat-Nova, and this land could be cultivated if re-usable Masis-Dzuk fish farm waters could reach the land. In February 2020, the community, with the help of ERGIS NGO and ASPIRED, received a grant from the Embassy of Japan in Armenia to expand the irrigation line to 60 hectares of land. The Japanese grant will also fund installing a solar photovoltaic system at the pumping station to minimize electricity consumption. In addition, the Armenian Territorial Development Fund agreed to support expansion of the irrigation network to the remaining land plots.

Thanks to the consistent efforts of multiple donors, about 300 households will gain an opportunity to cultivate farmlands that had been left idle for 15 years. Availability of affordable irrigation water will provide economic empowerment to local farmers, many of whom would otherwise become labor migrants in Russia and other countries. Helping prevent the valley’s artesian wells and springs from drying up also ensures local communities have drinking water.

ASPIRED piloted the re-use of fish farm outlet water for irrigation to demonstrate more sustainable and responsible fish farm practices other communities in the valley can replicate. So far two communities—Hayanist and Sayat-Nova—are benefiting from the innovation and the return of 100 hectares of abandoned community farmlands back to cultivation, creating income-generating opportunities for 183 households.

The ME&A-led ASPIRED assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ASPIRED focuses on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. ME&A was awarded the ASPIRED project as a task order under the USAID Water and Development (WADI) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.

EPA Website Provides Information on Drinking Water, Including Mapping Tool

Interested in learning more about drinking water, particularly in the United States? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Source Water Protection” website provides detailed information on drinking water from aquifers, streams, rivers, and lakes, including how every American can help protect the source of their own drinking water.

The website includes the Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters (DWMAPS), an online mapping tool that helps state and utility drinking water professionals update their source water assessments and protection plans. Watershed protection groups, source water collaboratives, and ordinary citizens can also use DWMAPS to locate drinking water providers, potential sources of contamination, polluted waterways as well as information on protection projects and Source Water Collaborative initiatives in their area.

ASPIRED Works with Ministry of Environment to Protect Armenia’s Water Resources

The USAID-funded, ME&A-led Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development (ASPIRED) project is working with Armenia’s Ministry of Environment to develop a methodology to assess the self-purification capacity of rivers and related enforcement mechanisms. The methodology is part of broader measures to protect Armenia’s water resources and reduce groundwater extraction in Armenia’s Ararat Valley to sustainable levels.

To develop the hydro-chemical, hydro-biological, and hydro-morphological components of the methodology, ASPIRED worked with the Ministry of Environment to establish a working group consisting of field experts and representatives from the Ministries of Environment, Emergency Situations, Territorial Administration. The field experts include a hydro-morphologist, water quality specialist, and hydro-biologist. The working group has been taking water samples from the Kasakh River basin based on river network morphology, hydrological feeding regime, existing human and natural pressures on the water quality, availability of multi-year monitoring data, and other factors.

ASPIRED and the Ministry of Environment jointly drafted the government decree establishing the requirements for protection of water resources in Armenia’s recreation zones and initiated development of the methodology. They are also working together to draft a legal act with enforcement mechanisms. Enforcement of these regulations is critical to ensuring protection of Armenia’s water resources.

ASPIRED presented interim results, next steps, and proposed enforcement mechanisms earlier this month and will present the completed methodology, user manual, and draft legal act with enforcement mechanisms to the Armenian Government in July 2020. ASPIRED will conduct the user training on the method if necessary.

The ME&A-led ASPIRED assists the Government of Armenia in developing consistent policy and technical solutions for a more regulated use of the nation’s vital groundwater resources. ASPIRED focuses on closing data gaps, improving technical capacities and tools for informed decision-making, increasing access to innovative water conservation and energy efficiency technologies, and promoting regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. ME&A was awarded the ASPIRED project as a task order under the USAID Water and Development Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Contract.

United Nations World Water Day Is March 22: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

World Water Day 2020 will be celebrated on March 22. This year’s theme, “Water and Climate Change,” explores how the two are inextricably linked and how adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives.

World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water—the United Nation’s inter-agency collaboration mechanism for all freshwater related issues—in collaboration with governments and partners. This year organizers are asking what do we mean when we say: “We cannot afford to wait. Climate policy makers must put water at the heart of action plans”?

  • Climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial. Every country in the world must work more quickly.
  • Extreme weather events are making water more scarce, more unpredictable, more polluted or all three.
  • Humans need water to survive, as do all the systems we rely on: sanitation, healthcare, education, business and industry.
  • Action plans to tackle climate change need to be integrated across different sectors and coordinated across borders. And they must have one thing in common: safe and sustainable water management.

Learn more at the World Water Day website or the UN-Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water.

 

 

ME&A Team Conducts Performance Evaluation of USAID/Central Asia Smart Waters Program

USAID/Central Asia programming to enhance regional cooperation on shared water resources in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan is the focus of an ME&A evaluation under the USAID/Central Asia Learning from Evaluations and Assessments for Development (LEAD) Activity.

The LEAD team is conducting a performance evaluation of Smart Waters, a five-year (2015-2020) program aimed at building a cadre of professionals in Central Asia who are capable of managing shared water resources to maximize the economic value of water equitably over the long term, understand the value of such practices, trust each other, and demonstrate the potential of the basin management approach and cooperation with academia. Smart Waters has four objectives:

  • Water managers in Central Asia and Afghanistan understand and apply sustainable water resources management on policy and practical levels
  • Networking, collaboration, and trust among future water managers across the Central Asian region and Afghanistan have increased
  • National water ministries apply integrated water resources management principles and provide enhanced support to basin management organizations
  • Basin planning principles in selected basins have improved

LEAD’s external evaluation comes after three and half years of Smart Waters implementation. It will enable USAID/Central Asia to determine whether its objectives were met, what components and project aspects worked well and why, which did not and why, and make data-driven decisions to replicate success and reduce challenges in future water sector programs.

The ME&A evaluation team consists of a team leader, a capacity building specialist, a water resources specialist, and translator/logistics assistant. The team is designing and executing the evaluation using a mixed-data approach, which will include gathering and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data and verifying the data using triangulation to produce a more holistic set of findings.

USAID/Central Asia awarded ME&A the five-year LEAD Indefinite Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contract in 2018 to assist it in generating empirical data and fostering a participatory approach to knowledge management and learning to strengthen results and improve evidence-based programming. This, in turn, is expected to promote more effective use of USAID development assistance resources and provide greater transparency.