Spillway Failure and Possible Collapse of Guajataca Dam, Puerto Rico

Mick West

Staff member
Source: https://twitter.com/ABC/status/911685598070452224

This story is interesting because of some similarities to the Oroville Dam situation. Heavy rains cause a badly built spillway to be used. Erosion ensues. Except in this case there a greater chance of the dam actually collapsing.

Here there's been mixed messages about how many people are in danger. The Tweet above says 70,000 people, however looking at the river on Google Earth, the path to the sea seems to be in a really deep ravine
In most places the walls of the ravine are over 200, getting below that only near the sea. The only houses I can see that are in danger are those right at the river mouth by the ocean, and those in the valley directly under the dam.

Obviously you would want to err on the side of caution. But presumably local officials have a plan on inundation areas in case of a dam breach. A mad scramble of 70,000+ people more than is needed would be unfortunate.

Mick West

Staff member
A better story:

The ridge they are referring to surrounds the river downstream of the dam. It is indeed remarkably deep, and the Quebradillas (east) side is 100 feet higher than the Isabela (west) side.

Mick West

Staff member
Lots of photos here:
I think it's important to note that most of the the flow of water we see is NOT the dam leaking. It's essentially just the Guajataca river after heavy rainfall. The dam is full, so anything that flows into the dam just flows right out over the spillway.


However there is a broken 3' pipe in the "waterfall" area, that looks like it went to a hydro/pumping/treatment station. Possibly the source of some of the region's drinking water.


Last edited:

Mick West

Staff member
Still lots of no-information "dam fails, thousands in danger" stories, but here's perspective from a local official



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