The South Caucasus countries lie within the Kura-Aras river basin. In the region, virtually all the water resources are considered to be part of national wealth, and the national legislation in the basin countries stipulates the basic principles of management, utilisation and protection of the water resources and water systems. All countries in the region are committed to managing water resources in a sustainable manner and this commitment is reflected in national development and environment policies and plans, including MDG-based poverty reduction and development strategies, and national environmental action programmes.
The main water issues in the South Caucasus regions and priority environmental problems include water quality, quantity, flood, habitat protection and bioresources. Pollution of surface, groundwater resources reduction of river flow and water shortage in Kura-Aras river basin, as well as policy, legal and institutional deficiencies make the struggle against water-pollution complicated. Current hurdles such as inadequate monitoring, low data reliability and accessibility, poor infrastructures, low awareness and inadequate capacities contribute to defective water-related eco-systems. Also, several regional issues have been identified that are common to all South Caucasus countries, such as different approaches, standards and methods for management of water resources between the countries; absence of a reference laboratory in the entire Kura river basin and an absence of a harmonised classification scheme in the South Caucasus.
Several national organisations are involved in water assessments in the South Caucasus, which provide statistical informationon the environment; assess water resources; produce state of environment reports (SoER) and national communications on climate change; and assess surfacewater quantity and quality, drinking-water quality and groundwater quantity and quality.
An important project combating water-related problems, implemented by REC Caucasus was “Creation of Enabling Environment for Integrated Management of the Kura-Aras Transboundary Rivers Basin”. REC Caucasus identified several emerging issues in water sector and developed options for future action, taking into consideration the identified problems and pressures on water resources, such as the identification of water-use functions in transboundary watersheds; development of agreements on applicable maximum allowable concentrations of pollutants, principles and methods for calculation of a water-quality index; establishment of a common transboundary water cadastre; the development of a regional information system for the countries and the development of an early warning system.