The development potential of ground-water resources in the karst limestone of northwestern Puerto Rico, in an area extending from the Río Camuy to Aguadilla, is uncertain as a result of limited knowledge of the location of areas where a high density of cavities (interconnected fractures, conduits, and other dissolution features) might suggest the occurrence of high water yields. The presence in northwestern Puerto Rico of numerous coastal submarine springs, cavernous porosity in some of the wells, and rivers with entrenched and underground paths, indicate that it is probable that water-bearing, subterranean interconnected cavities occur in the area between the Río Camuy and Aguadilla. The number of exploratory wells needed to determine the location of these conduits or zones of enhanced secondary porosity could be substantially reduced if more information were available about the location of these subterranean features, greatly reducing the drilling costs associated with a trial-and-error exploratory process.
A 3-year study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, to detect the presence of cavities that might suggest the occurrence of conduit-controlled groundwater flow. Aerial photographs, geologic and topographic maps, and field reconnaissance were used to identify such linear terrain features as ridges, entrenched canyons, and fracture traces. Natural potential and gravity geophysical methods were also used. The following sites were selected for the aerial photograph interpretation and geophysical testing: Caimital Bajo uplands and former Ramey Air Force Base in Aguadilla; Quebrada de los Cedros between Aguadilla and Isabela; the University of Puerto Rico Agricultural Experiment Station, Otilio dairy farm, and Pozo Brujo in Isabela; the Monte Encantado area in Moca and Isabela; and the Rio Camuy cave system in Hatillo and Camuy.
In general, the degree of success varied with site and the geophysical method used. At some sites such as Pozo Brujo, the University of Puerto Rico Agricultural Experiment Station, and Monte Encantado area, natural potential anomalies strongly suggest the existence of conduits with flowing water. At most sites, however, the results obtained did not clearly reveal the presence of subsurface cavities that might be associated with the occurrence of conduit-controlled ground-water flow. Sites such as the University of Puerto Rico Agricultural Experiment Station, Pozo Brujo, and Quebrada de los Cedros warrant a more detailed analysis, including a test well drilling phase to confirm the presence of suspected high-yield water-bearing zones.