The Pacific slope of Guatemala stretches from the Guatemalan volcanic belt to the pacific littoral, covering over 25 % of the country. Due to its flat landform, to the type of sediments ant to its climatic characteristics, the intensive agriculture has develop during the last decades. Nowadays, most of the area is devoted to agriculture. Next to the volcanic chain, coffee plantations and basic grains as corn and beans predominate, while in the medium part the majority of crops are dense forest of rubber and part of the sugar plantations. Finally, in the most littoral part are located the biggest part of the sugar production, next to the oil palms and bananas farms. So far, the water needed for the irrigation of these crops was provided by the surface streams in the area, that are characterized by a high flow rate due to high precipitations especially during the rainy season.
But the reliability of the superficial water demonstrated its limitations between the years 2015 and 2017, when one of the biggest El Niño events ever registered occurred. This situation caused severe drought conditions in Guatemala Pacific basin in the following year. The rate flow of the principal streams went down and they mostly dried up. On the other hand, the superficial wells also dried up and the local population who depends on these resources for their consummation was affected. A conflict started between local inhabitants and the agro-industry. Finally, the water scarcity situation was managed successfully by the formation of water users boards and surface water monitoring systems, leaded by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research (ICC). But in this scarcity scenario groundwater has been found to be an alternative for water supply.
Today, the number of groundwater extractions increase dramatically, without any management. The hydrogeological information and studies in this area of the country are really scarce, and there’s no national governance of water resources. The uncontrolled extractions of groundwater could lead to serious consequences, as the diminution of the groundwater resources of the local population and the decrease of the water levels in rivers and ecosystems associated. In order to impulse the management of groundwater, ICC started the investigations in hydrogeology since 2015, as a part of one of its research programs. A first groundwater flow characterization has been carried out, including geochemical and isotopic studies, and periodic measurement of groundwater levels in the wells of the area. During the next five years, ICC pretends to enhance the investigations in groundwater in the area, to start an integral management of the water resources and to permit a sustainable exploitation.