The increased potential for variability of groundwater quality in the South Coast aquifer of Puerto Rico due to saline water encroachment from the Caribbean Sea and from deep parts of the aquifer has become a major concern of water planners and managers. In an effort to determine the extent and sources of this encroachment, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources conducted a synoptic groundwater-quality survey from April 2 through May 30, 2007, for the South Coast aquifer between Ponce and Arroyo (fig. 1). Groundwater resources in this aquifer extend 150 square miles in south-central Puerto Rico and provide an estimated 44.2 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) or about 61 percent of the total water needs. This amount includes: 15.3 Mgal/d for irrigation, 27.4 Mgal/d for public supply, and 1.5 Mgal/d for industrial and other uses (W.L. Molina-Rivera, U.S. Geological Survey, written commun., 2007). Since 1980 when most of the south coastal plain was intensively cultivated for sugarcane, total groundwater withdrawals have declined about 32 Mgal/d with the greatest decline occurring in irrigation (37.2 Mgal/d) and the greatest increase occurring in public supply (5.5 Mgal/d). Although withdrawals have declined substantially, a major concern is that aquifer recharge provided by irrigation return flow from surface-water irrigation canals has essentially dropped to zero because of the large-scale implementation of groundwater drip irrigation systems.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Groundwater-Quality Survey of the South Coast Aquifer of Puerto Rico, April 2 through May 30, 2007