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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5254

Prepared in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources

Evaluation of Groundwater Quality and Selected Hydrologic Conditions in the South Coast Aquifer, Santa Isabel Area, Puerto Rico, 2008–09

By José M. Rodríguez

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The source of drinking water in the Santa Isabel and Coamo areas of Puerto Rico (Molina and Gómez-Gómez, 2008) is the South Coast aquifer (hereafter referred to as the aquifer), which supplies about 30,700 cubic meters per day (m³/d) to Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) public-supply wells. In addition, approximately 45 wells provide an estimated 33,700 m³/d of groundwater to irrigate crops in the area. In 1967, baseline nitrate concentrations in groundwater throughout most of the aquifer were generally less than 6 milligrams per liter (mg/L) as nitrogen in collected water samples (U.S. Geological Survey, 2012). In 2007, elevated nitrate concentrations were detected in the aquifer, near Santa Isabel and the foothills north of the coastal plain at Santa Isabel as part of a regional groundwater-quality assessment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) during 2007 (Rodríguez and Gómez-Gómez, 2008). The increase in nitrate concentrations has been of concern to local government agencies because of its potential effect on public supply.

To address public-supply concerns, the USGS, in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER), evaluated groundwater quality in the aquifer near the Santa Isabel area between January 2008 and May 2009. The objectives of the study were to (1) define the groundwater-quality conditions of the aquifer, with emphasis on the distribution of nitrate concentrations; (2) identify potential sources leading to elevated nitrate concentrations; (3) estimate the nitrate loads from major sources identified; and (4) estimate the groundwater withdrawals by principal-use categories in the area. Results of this study will be used by Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and Federal agencies in developing strategies that can result in containment of high nitrate groundwater to minimize degradation of fresh groundwater in the aquifer.

First posted June 14, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Caribbean Water Science Center
GSA Center, 651 Federal Drive
Suite 400-15
Guaynabo, PR 00965

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Suggested citation:

Rodríguez, J.M., 2013, Evaluation of groundwater quality and selected hydrologic conditions in the South Coast aquifer, Santa Isabel area, Puerto Rico, 2008–09: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5254, 36 p.,





Methods of Investigation

Hydrologic Setting

Groundwater Conditions

Water Quality

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix. Pesticides analyzed from groundwater samples collected in the Santa Isabel area, Puerto Rico, 2008

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