Factors Contributing to the 2005-Present, Rapid Rise in Lake Levels, Dominican Republic and Haiti (Hispaniola)


Lakes Enriquillo and Azuei, the two largest lakes in Hispaniola and in the Caribbean, have risen 10 and 5 m respectively within the last 8 years. Higher lake levels have submerged towns, road systems, agricultural lands and utilities, and have threatened to submerge the major overland highway that connects the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In this study, we use CHIRP seismic data, satellite imagery, and regional meteorological data to quantify and assess controls on the recent lake level rises. Although data are limited, the analyses indicate that the lakes’ water level changes may be attributed to a combination of increased rainfall and natural or man-made changes to the hydraulic connectivity of the various water bodies within the drainage basin. We show that a weak correlation exists between changes in Lake Enriquillo’s and Azuei’s water levels and precipitation rates (0.2 and 0.08 respectively, 1984-2012) and that both lakes experience periods of anti-correlation where, for example, water level drops at Lake Azuei (~20 masl) coincide with water level rises at Lake Enriquillo (41 mbsl). From these observations, we propose that the lakes experience intermittent periods of hydraulic connectivity along reactivated or newly developed stratigraphic-controlled sub-surface transport pathways. We also note that moderately small earthquakes along the large active fault system that extends through both lakes may promote or limit hydraulic conductivity on decadal or shorter time scales. The extents to which recent earthquakes have triggered changes in groundwater flow at this site remain unclear but represent an important topic of future research.

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Wright, V. , Hornbach, M. , Mchugh, C. and Mann, P. (2015) Factors Contributing to the 2005-Present, Rapid Rise in Lake Levels, Dominican Republic and Haiti (Hispaniola). Natural Resources, 6, 465-481. doi: 10.4236/nr.2015.68045.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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