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Scientific Investigations Map 3296

Prepared in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Hydrogeology of Puerto Rico and the Outlying Islands of Vieques, Culebra, and Mona

By Fernando Gómez-Gómez, Jesús Rodríguez-Martínez, and Marilyn Santiago

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (9.70 MB)Summary

The availability of hydrogeologic maps for Puerto Rico and the outlying islands of Vieques, Culebra, and Mona are important to hydrogeologists, groundwater specialists, and water resource managers and planners. These maps, in combination with the report, serve as a source of information to all users by providing basic hydrogeologic and hydrologic knowledge in a concise illustrated format.

Puerto Rico and the outlying islands cover a total area of 8,927 square kilometers (km2). Of this total area, about 3,500 km2 are underlain by hydrogeologic units that are classified as intergranular or fissured. These hydrogeologic units form the principal aquifer systems throughout Puerto Rico and the outlying islands.

In Puerto Rico, the most extensive and intensely developed aquifers are the North Coast Limestone aquifer system and the South Coastal Alluvial Plain aquifer system. Withdrawals from these two aquifer systems constitute nearly 70 percent of the total groundwater withdrawn in Puerto Rico.

The spatial extent of the North Coast Limestone aquifer system is about 2,000 km2. Within this aquifer system, groundwater development is greatest in the 800-km2 area between the Río Grande de Arecibo and the Río de la Plata. This also is the area for which concern is the highest regarding the future use of groundwater as a primary source of water for domestic and industrial use. With an estimated withdrawal of 280,000 cubic meters per day (m3/d), groundwater constituted the principal source of water within this area providing 100 percent of the water for self-supplied industries and about 85 percent for public water supplies in 1985. By 2005, groundwater withdrawals decreased to 150,000 m3/d.

The spatial extent of the South Coastal Alluvial Plain aquifer system is about 470 km2. The estimated consumptive groundwater withdrawal from the aquifer system was 190,000 m3/d in 1980 and 170,000 m3/d in 2005. About 60 percent and 40 percent of the groundwater withdrawal from the South Coastal Alluvial Plain aquifer system was used for public water supply and irrigation, respectively.

In the outlying islands of Vieques, Culebra, and Mona, only Vieques is underlain by aquifers of any local importance. The Resolución and Esperanza aquifers underlie an area covering 16 km2 on the island of Vieques. Prior to 1978 when an underwater public water-supply pipeline connecting Vieques to the main island of Puerto Rico was completed, groundwater withdrawal from the two aquifers was as much as 2,500 m3/d. Groundwater withdrawals in Vieques island in 2005 were estimated at less than 100 m3/d.

The potential development of relatively untapped groundwater resources in Puerto Rico is limited to the Río Grande de Añasco valley and the Río Culebrinas valley in the western part of the island and to the Río Grande de Arecibo part of the North Coast Limestone aquifer system. In general, the North Coast Limestone and the South Coastal Alluvial Plain aquifer systems, which are the two principal groundwater-flow systems in Puerto Rico, show evidence of aquifer overdraft as indicated by regional increases in concentrations of dissolved solids.

Optimization of withdrawals through conjunctive use of both surface-water and groundwater sources and by instituting water conservation measures has the greatest potential to ensure the continued use of groundwater resources. In support of these efforts, programs also could be implemented to improve database information regarding groundwater withdrawals and the contribution of surface-water diversions to surface-water flow, especially within the southern coastal plain of Puerto Rico.

First posted August 19, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Caribbean Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
651 Federal Drive Suite 400-15
Guaynabo, PR 00965

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Suggested citation:

Gómez-Gómez, Fernando, Rodríguez-Martínez, Jesús, and Santiago, Marilyn, 2014, Hydrogeology of Puerto Rico and the outlying islands of Vieques, Culebra, and Mona: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3296, 40 p. plus 2 pls.,

ISSN 2329–132X (online)



Generalized Characteristics of the Islands

Contents of the Hydrogeologic Map

Summary and Conclusions

Selected References

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