Capacity of Toa Vaca reservoir to be increased with $270 million project
By John McPhaul
Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Executive Director Manuel Laboy Rivera, along with Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) Executive Director Doriel Pagán Crespo, reported the approval by part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of a proposed project that will increase the performance of the Toa Vaca reservoir in Villalba through an investment of more than $270 million in reconstruction funds.
“This is yet another pressing infrastructure project funded by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for drought mitigation, important at a time like this,” Laboy Rivera said in a written statement. “Once completed, the southern region of Puerto Rico will have greater reliability in the water supply.”
PRASA proposed the design and construction of the project, which will divert water from the Bauta River to a tributary of the Toa Vaca River with the purpose of increasing the water supply to the reservoir. Also, the expansion of the current Toa Vaca treatment plant or the construction of a new one was approved.
“In the face of climate change and variation in rainfall patterns that have affected the availability of water resources, PRASA focuses on resilient projects that seek to minimize the impact of drought seasons and other events of climate change,” Pagán Crespo said. “The construction of the Bauta tunnel contemplates increasing the safe yield for the Toa Vaca reservoir, with an investment of $257 million. This is one of over 40 projects that directly address the impact of droughts, increasing the availability of water resources. We thank FEMA for the teamwork to jointly achieve projects such as the Bauta tunnel, among others.”
Laboy Rivera noted that the project will result in an increase in the safe performance of the reservoir from 16 million gallons per day to 29 million gallons per day. In addition, it will increase the treatment capacity from 7.5 million gallons per day to 20.5 million gallons per day, as well as the installation of new transmission lines to transport potable water to the areas currently served by groundwater wells, which represents an important step for a more resilient system.
Once the project is implemented -- which will be carried out in two phases -- the operation of the existing water supply wells will be discontinued, allowing the 13.02 million gallons per day of water currently extracted by wells to be used for the restoration of the aquifer.
FEMA has already approved two other PRASA projects under HMGP, which include generators for the Enrique Ortega filtration plant in Toa Alta at a cost of $8.3 million, and $27 million for the construction of the Salinas filtration plant.