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Hydrogeology of the North Coast Limestone aquifer system of Puerto Rico

May 1, 1996

The North Coast Limestone aquifer system of Puerto Rico is composed of three regional hydrogeologic units: an upper aquifer that contains an underlying saltwater zone near the coast, a middle confining unit, and a lower aquifer. The upper aquifer is unconfined, except in coastal areas where it is locally confined by fine-grained surficial deposits. The upper aquifer is mostly absent in the Rio Piedras area of northeastern Puerto Rico. The confining unit is composed of calcareous claystone, marl, chalky and silicified limestone, and locally clayey fine-grained sandstone. Test hole data indicate that the confining unit is locally leaky in the San Juan metropolitan area. An artesian zone of limited areal extent exists within the middle confining unit, in the central part of the study area. The lower aquifer mostly contains ground water under confined conditions except in the outcrop areas, where it is unconfined. The lower aquifer is thickest and most transmissive in the north-central part of the study area. Water in the lower aquifer is fresh throughout much of the area, but is brackish in some areas near San Juan and Guaynabo. West of the Rio Grande de Arecibo, the extent of the lower aquifer is uncertain. Data are insufficient to determine whether or not the existing multiple water-bearing units in this area are an extension of the more productive lower aquifer in the Manati to Arecibo area. Zones of moderate permeability exist within small lenses of volcanic conglomerate and sandstone of the San Sebastian Formation, but in general this formation is not a productive aquifer. Transmissivity values for the upper aquifer range from 200 to more than 280,000 feet squared per day. The transmissivity values for the upper aquifer generally are highest in the area between the Rio de la Plata and Rio Grande de Arecibo, where transmissivity values have been reported to exceed 100,000 feet squared per day in six locations. Transmissivity estimates for the lower aquifer are highest in north central Puerto Rico, where the Lares Limestone and the Montebello Limestone Member of the Cibao Formation have transmissivities as high as 500 and 3,600 feet squared per day, respectively.