Guajataca Lake

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Lago Guajataca (Guajataca Lake)
Lago Guajataca - Quebradillas, Puerto Rico - panoramio.jpg
Location San Sebastián / Quebradillas / Isabela municipalities, Puerto Rico
Coordinates Coordinates: 18°23′51″N 66°55′26″W / 18.39750°N 66.92389°W / 18.39750; -66.92389
Type Reservoir
Basin countries Puerto Rico
Managing agency Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority
Built 1929[1]
First flooded 1929[1]
Surface area 2.03 sq mi (5.26 km²)[dubious ]
Water volume 11 billion gallons[1][not in citation given]
Guajataca Dam
Guajataca Dam.png
The dam in August 2007
Purpose Irrigation, Hydroelectric, Water Supply[2]
Owner(s) Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority[2]
Operator(s) Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority[2]
Dam and spillways
Type of dam earthen[2]
Height (thalweg) 120[2]
Length 984[2]
Creates Guajataca Lake

Lago Guajataca is an artificial reservoir created by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in 1929. It is located between the municipalities of San Sebastián, Quebradillas, and Isabela in Puerto Rico. The dam at Guajataca Lake experienced a structural failure on September 22, 2017 due to the hit from Hurricane Maria.[3][4][5]

The Guajataca Dam is an earthen dam,[2] used for irrigation and drinking water purposes. It has a normal surface area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 square kilometres), its length is 2.5 miles (4.0 kilometres), its maximum width is 1 mile (1.6 kilometres), and its maximum discharge is 28,954 cubic feet (819.9 cubic metres) per second. Its normal storage capacity is 30,055 acre feet (37,072 megalitres), and its drainage basin is 31 square miles (80 km2).[6][better source needed]

It is the location of Guajataka Scout Reservation.

The name of the lake comes from the area where it is located. Guajataca, sometimes spelled Guajataka, is an area in Puerto Rico between the municipalities of Quebradillas, San Sebastián and Isabela. The name comes from the Taíno word for the area (northwestern Puerto Rico) prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The river, Río Guajataca, also carries the name.

Dam construction[edit]

The construction of the dam was authorized by act 63 of the Legislature of Puerto Rico, known as the "Isabella public irrigation law," approved April 19, 1919.[7]

According to the National Inventory of Dams database, Guajataca Dam was designed and is owned by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Lago Guajataca was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers by building a dam across the river Río Guajataca.

Guajataca dam failure[edit]

On September 22, 2017 at 18:10 GMT, following Hurricane Maria, operators at Guajataca Dam announced that the dam was failing at the northern end of the lake. The National Weather Service a few minutes later urged all 70,000 residents in the flood area to be evacuated. The National Weather Service quoted the dam as to be a "life-threatening situation".[8][9][10]

“It’s a structural failure. I don’t have any more details,” Governor Ricardo Rossello stated. “We’re trying to evacuate as many people as possible.”[10]

As of September 2017, the dam was last inspected on October 23, 2013.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Puerto Rico Dam Failing; Flash Flood Emergency Declared: "This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION," NWS San Juan said in a tweet. Asher Klein. NBC10-TV. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. 22 September 2017. Access 22 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "GUAJATACA DAM: NID Detail Report" (query). National Inventory of Dams. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 23 September 2017. 
  3. ^ "Lago Guajataca at Damsite". Water Resources of the Caribbean. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved September 22, 2017. 
  4. ^ Ellis, Ralph. "Puerto Rico dam: Evacuations begin along Guajataca River". CNN. CNN News. Retrieved September 22, 2017. 
  5. ^ Schmidt, Samantha. "‘Thousands of people could die’: 70,000 in Puerto Rico urged to evacuate with dam in ‘imminent’ danger". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2017. 
  6. ^ "National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II, Regulated Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4’s) Permit Application Notice of Intent (NOI)" (PDF). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency- Region II. January 2010: 8. Retrieved 23 September 2017.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Reily, Emmet Montgomery, Governor of Puerto Rico (1922). Annual Report. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 233–234. 
  8. ^ "Guajataca Dam fails in Puerto Rico, prompting "extremely dangerous" situation". CBS News. CBS News. Retrieved September 22, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Puerto Rico dam failure "imminent" after Hurricane Maria". BBC World News. BBC News. Retrieved September 22, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b "Puerto Rico evacuates 70,000 after dam fails in Hurricane Maria's wake". The Guardian. Retrieved September 22, 2017.