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Surface water and groundwater resources
Belize is very rich in surface water and groundwater resources. Surface water resources appear to be abundant all over the country except on the Vaca Plateau, where streams disappear in the porous limestone. The northern rivers show meandering streams while the southern have smaller basins and flow more rapidly into the sea. There are a total of 18 major river basins with another 16 sub-basins, which drain the Maya Mountains and discharge into the Caribbean Sea. The river basins are grouped into six main regions, based on general characteristics of topography, geology, soils, rainfall and land use: Northern, Northeastern, Central, Southeastern, Southwestern and Southern Watershed Region. The Hondo river originates in Guatemala, then enters Mexico and then becomes the northern boundary of the country with Mexico. In the South, the Sarstoon river originates in Guatemala and then becomes the boundary with Guatemala.
Generally, groundwater is available throughout the less mountainous areas of Belize and favourable yield characteristics can be attributed to geology and climatic conditions. The northern region consists of calcareous sediments that have shown high permeability. In the south where limestones are found similar groundwater yield conditions are indicated, while the shales and slates are naturally poorly permeable and therefore have low capacity for groundwater extraction.
Internal renewable surface water resources have been estimated at 15.258 km3/year and internal renewable groundwater resources at 7.51 km3/year (IGRAC, 2012). The overlap between surface water and groundwater being estimated to be 100 percent, total internal renewable water resources are thus 15.258 km3/year (Ballesteros, Reyes and Astorga, 2007). The flow of the border river Hondo with Mexico is estimated at 0.864 km3/year, of which 50 percent or 0.432 km3/year is counted for Belize. The flow from Mopán and Sarstún rivers from Guatemala is estimated at 6.042 km3/year. This brings the total renewable water resources to 21.732 km3/year (Table 2).
Lakes and dams
Numerous freshwater and brackish water lakes or lagoons are scattered in the central and northern coastal and inland low-lying areas (BEST & CCCCC, 2009).
The country is well endowed with potential sites for the development of large and small hydroelectric projects.
Total large dam capacity is estimated at 122 million m3 in 2013. There are three major hydroelectric projects on the Macal river: the Mollejon dam (1.7 million m3) completed in 1995 at the confluence of the On river and the Macal river, the Chalillo dam (120 million m3) completed in 2005, and the Vaca dam completed in 2010 in the area of the Vaca falls. These three dams have also flood control purposes. The Macal river was chosen because it has good elevation which means more pressure, but the construction of the dams has reduced considerably the flow and the quality on the river.
The Chalillo dam is located a few miles upstream from the Mollejon dam and was built to store water to be used at the Mollejon and Vaca stations during the dry season or when the water is low. With these three hydropower plants Belize is able to produce its own energy and does not really need to depend on Mexico. The Chalillo facility generates 7.3 MW of power and the Mollejon plant generates 25.2 MW.
There is another hydroelectric plant in San Miguel river, the Hydro Maya plant, which supplies 0.50 MW. There is also a small scale power plant at Blue Creek on the Hondo river, which provides 15KW of power.