Water Level Fluctuations of Lake Enriquillo and Lake Saumatre in Response to Environmental Changes

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The water level of Lake Saumatre in Haiti and Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic has been increasing in a continuous manner for the past 10 years. This increase in volume has caused flooding of roads, cities and agricultural land causing the inhabitants of the area to complain about the current situation and seek help from their respective governments. Both national and international organizations have expressed interest in determining the causes of the continuous growth and from there, coming up with aid plans for the cities and inhabitants of the area.

Various theories haven proposed by national and international organizations, and other technical groups, to explain the growth of the lakes. Among the hypotheses to explain the growth there is 1) Deforestation of the watershed, which would affect the hydrological balance by means of a change in infiltration rates and 2) Regional climate change which would also affected the hydrological balance of the area by either an increase in precipitation or decrease in evaporation rates.

This study analyzed those two main theories to determine whether they are the cause of the growth. First, deforestation was studied by means of remote sensing of the land cover on the years of 1986 and 2010 and analyzing vegetation changes. A Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) was also analyzed to validate the land cover change method. It was found that, although there has been some land cover change, the change has not been significant enough to influence major changes in the hydrological balance. A water balance was also done which resulted in a correlated lakes’ level increase with precipitation patterns, indicating that the watersheds are highly responsive to precipitation trends.

These are only preliminary results since there are many unknowns in the dynamics of the lakes’ systems. The objective of this study was to do a basic analysis of the dynamics of the two watersheds and provide a starting point for a more in depth research.

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Lake level simulation; water balance; land use - land cover changes


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technical report

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