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South Aquifer Watershed Project

Santa Isabela, PRGrassed waterway successfully transporting storm water in Santa Isabel.


The South Aquifer Watershed Project in Juana Diaz and Santa Isabel, PR, was initiated in 2005 to address a critical decline of the water table and salt water intrusion into the aquifer. The project aims to protect, preserve and improve the quality and quantity of agricultural resources in the watershed. The project was initiated in three phases to develop alternate water resources in order to allow the South Aquifer to recharge:

  1. Phase I: revitalization of the main irrigation canal (completed in 2005).
  2. Phase II: design & construction of conservation practices in Juana Diaz in 2011 - sediment basins to recharge the aquifer, and irrigation reservoirs, grassed water ways & irrigation systems to maximize use of water in the canal and reduce water extraction from the aquifer, directly impacting 1,200 acres.
  3. Phase III: expansion of the project to Santa Isabel to install similar conservation practices to improve water quality and quantity, directly impacting 2,100 acres.

Juana Díaz NRCS and Caribe SWCD team members (left to right): SCT Mabel Vega, Caguas intern Dalitza González, Engineer Rolando Collazo, Caribe SCD Administrator Yelitza Martínez, and Juana Díaz DC Nicis Vega at new irrigation reservoir

Juana Díaz Completes 2011 Special Irrigation Project

On July 2, 2019, the Juana Díaz FO staff and partners celebrated the completion of the Juana Díaz Special Project at Hacienda Juana Díaz & Hacienda Centro, PR-1, Km 108. The Juana Díaz Special Project (JDSP) began in 2011 in partnership with Caribe Soil and Water Conservation District, the PR Land Authority and PR Agricultural Department. NRCS contributed over $1 million in financial and technical assistance for conservation implementation, impacting over 930 acres. Practices implemented include: 

  • 3 Irrigation water reservoirs for an additional 21.6 M gallons of clean water from the AEE Juana Díaz irrigation channel;
  • 2 Sediment and runoff control basins with a total capacity of over 6.36 M gallons of runoff water;
  • 5,846 Linear feet of grassed waterways leading to the sediment basins;Sediment and stormwater runoff control basin installed to trap sediment and recharge aquifer.
  • 2.5 miles (13,101.9 ft) of Irrigation water conveyance pipes from 4 to 18 inches in diameter;
  • 3 Heavy use area protection pads of rock and gravel on geotextile for waterway crossings;
  • 20.5 acres of Land clearing; and
  • 5,440 linear feet of Exclusion fencing

Conservation Funding and Practices

NRCS conservation professionals are providing technical assistance and planning tools to improve water quality and quantity in the watershed. Planned conservation practices include irrigation water reservoirs and pipelines, irrigation systems, pumping plants for water control, grassed waterways, water & sediment control basins, and vegetated buffers. To help install these conservation practices, financial cost-share assistance is available though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Aerial photo showing practices in Juana Diaz watershedPartnerships

NRCS identified the south aquifer watershed as an area of concern through the help of the Caribe Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). NRCS and Caribe SWCD are partnering with the PR Department of Agriculture, the PR Land Authority, PR Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, PR Power Authority, and PR Sewer Authority to implement practices to recharge and protect the South Aquifer. NRCS will continue to coordinate with local and state agencies, the conservation district, nongovernmental organizations and others to implement this initiative.

Producer Benefits

Conservation practices benefit agricultural producers by lowering input costs and enhancing the productivity of working lands. Investing in conservation in the watershed will benefit farmers and residents by improving water quantity and quality in the aquifer, improving runoff management, controlling soil erosion, installing water reservoirs for irrigation management, improving irrigation systems, and installing systems to improve water infiltration.

For More Information

Program Contact: José Castro, Assistant Director, 787-281-4962
Field Office Contact: Nicis Vega, Juana Diaz District Conservationist, 787-837-4450 x106