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Hydrologic conditions in the South Coast aquifer, Puerto Rico, 2010–15

Open-File Report 2015-1215

Prepared in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources
By:
and
https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151215

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Abstract

In 1958, the U.S. Geological Survey began documenting hydrologic conditions, including groundwater levels, groundwater withdrawals for agricultural irrigation and public water supply, and water quality, in the South Coast aquifer, Puerto Rico. This information has improved the understanding of the water resources of the region. The hydrologic data indicate that (1) groundwater levels declined as much as 40 feet in the Salinas area and 11 feet in the Guayama area during 2012–14; (2) groundwater withdrawals for agricultural irrigation increased from 6.0 to 10.5 million gallons per day, or 75 percent, from 2010 to 2012; and (3) total groundwater withdrawals decreased from 29.3 to 23.8 million gallons per day from 2010 to 2014. The quantity and quality of water in the aquifer is primarily affected by variations in aquifer recharge as a result of changing rainfall or modes of irrigation; however, the spatial patterns and magnitude of water withdrawals for all uses have a secondary impact on the quantity and quality of water in the aquifer.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data from climatological stations indicate that the 30-year normal precipitation for the period 1991–2010 in the South Coastal and Southern Slopes climatological regions was about 37.74 and 61.61 inches, respectively; the 30-year moving average precipitation for the period 1985–2014 was 37.94 and 61.80 inches, respectively, for these regions. The mean annual precipitation during 2012–14 was 13 percent below the 30-year moving average for the South Coastal climatological region and 7.7 percent below for the Southern Slopes climatological region. When rainfall is below the 30-year moving average, recharge is diminished and groundwater levels decline. Annual precipitation in the South Coast aquifer, which includes a large part of the South Coastal and Southern Slopes climatological regions, was 39.42, 37.25, and 34.89 inches per year for 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively.

Water level declines reduce the thickness of freshwater in the unconfined parts of the South Coast aquifer. Additionally, the pumping-induced migration of poor-quality water from deep or seaward areas of the aquifer can contribute to reductions in the thickness of freshwater in the aquifer. The reduction in the freshwater saturated thickness of the aquifer in areas near Ponce, Juana Díaz, Salinas, and Guayama is of particular concern because the total saturated thickness of the aquifer is thinner in these areas. Total dissolved solids concentration in groundwater samples indicates a small positive trend in Ponce, Santa Isabel, Salinas, and Guayama. Diminished aquifer recharge during 2012 to 2015 and, to a lesser extent, increased groundwater withdrawals have resulted in a reduction in the freshwater saturated thickness of the aquifer. The reduction in freshwater saturated thickness of the aquifer may affect freshwater resources available for agriculture and public water supply. A prolonged time period with reduced aquifer recharge may have substantial implications for groundwater levels and fresh groundwater availability.

Suggested Citation

Torres-González, Sigfredo, and Rodríguez, J.M., 2016, Hydrologic conditions in the South Coast aquifer, Puerto Rico, 2010–15: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1215, 32 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151215.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Hydrologic Conditions in the South Coast Aquifer
  • Summary
  • References

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrologic conditions in the South Coast aquifer, Puerto Rico, 2010–15
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2015-1215
DOI:
10.3133/ofr20151215
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Caribbean Water Science Center
Description:
v, 32 p.
Country:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Puerto Rico
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N