One of the key things about Puerto Rico’s supply distribution that affected its ability to recover quickly was distributing the resources that were imported or held internally. Troubles arose when coordination between FEMA and the local government did not effectively model the distribution of imported supplies. The goods donated by private entities and nonprofit groups were collected at the elections commission offices, and then distributed by the National Guard. Once the crisis subsided, according to Frazin, goods were moved to trailers in the parking lot of the election bureau’s San Juan offices but occasionally not delivered, despite continuing problems on the island. Ten trailers of food and other supplies were found rotting nearly two years after the hurricane. [1]

Actions to Improve the Quality and Efficiency

In order to make necessary supplies available as quickly and efficiently as possible, there are a few things that would make the supply chain more efficient and effective. One significant issue to address with Puerto Rico’s distribution of resources is the distribution of water. With the distribution of water within Puerto Rico, there are two solutions that would strongly aid the efficiency of the distribution of water. First, the water piping system should be renovated to minimize contamination. Even before Maria, Puerto Rico (specifically the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA)) had one of the worst records in the US of maintaining the water systems, as they failed to eliminate excessive amounts of pollutants, not report on violations in wastewater plants, and generally failed to adhere to the Clean Water Act. [2] From the NRDC, “from 2005 to 2015, there were a total of 33,842 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Puerto Rico, including violations of health-based standards, monitoring violations, and reporting violations.” [3] 

Figure 1: Darker Colors are Areas with More Violations (NRDC, 2017). [4]

All of these violations led to a settlement in 2015 between the EPA and PRASA that required PRASA to comply with a list of demands that would improve the quality of the water distributed throughout Puerto Rico. [2] Estimates tell that PRASA will likely end up paying $1.5 billion to adhere to such settlements. Improvements, such as a new sludge treatment process, frequent sampling of the treated water, and an assessment of the current sewers and their conditions, should go a long way in ensuring that the water quality improves. Although this settlement was significant in ensuring that Puerto Rico and PRASA will maintain their focus on distributing clean water, clear issues emerged when Irma and Maria hit the island in quick succession. In the two weeks after Maria hit, 44% of the population had no access to clean drinking water. [5] Such a widespread lack of clean water strongly hurt the population’s overall health, morale and ability to recover. To solve such problems, we suggest that Puerto Rico increases their efforts to make sure that water treatment meets quality requirements and the piping systems sufficiently distribute water safely between cities and municipios. Other issues that should be addressed include language barriers, high cost of energy relatively in Puerto Rico, and a lack of proper funding. [6]

Another solution that will significantly boost the resilience of the water distribution within Puerto Rico is a reforestation of the Luquillo Experimental Forest and the El Yunque National Forest. El Yunque National Forest contributes significantly to the internal water supply of Puerto Rico, significantly influencing the water supply of Puerto Rico. 

The Luquillo Mountains, which lie within El Yunque National Forest, serve as the headwater for six key Puerto Rican rivers which provide Puerto Rico with 20% of its drinking water. [7] The trees shield the soil, which protects the soil from losing its nutrients and sediments. Losing the nutrients and sediments would both weaken the trees and cause the bodies of water to fill with unneeded materials, [8] such as eroded soil, nitrate, and various other nutrients. As the water flows down the mountains into the headwaters, it carries with it whatever eroded soil and nutrients are loosened from the base of trees by the heavy rainfall. In the case of Hurricane Maria, Luquillo Experimental Forest had one of the highest tree mortality rates (about 37%), likely because of its location in the northeast which is prone to the worst damage of tropical storms coming from the southeast. [8][9] Dramatic mortality rates risk the quantity and quality of the Puerto Rican water supply, which strongly hurts the safety of the population and the ability of Puerto Rico return to self-sustainability. Reforesting this region, as a long-term solution, is a major necessity in restoring the internal water supply, which gives Puerto Rico a foundation to recover upon. There are certain trees that provide great resistance to storms, and thus would be instrumental in reforesting the Luquillo Experimental Forest. These include the Sierra Palm (Prestoea montana), which normally resides at high-elevation regions with large slopes, and the Caimitillo Verde (Micropholis garciniifolia), a tree that normally resides in the peaks of the mountains. [7] Both of these trees are trees that reside in regions where rainfall is the most significant and regions where the water begins to build up. Reforesting these regions with these trees would allow the habitat to continue as normally while also helping to decrease the contaminants brought into the headwaters. Reforesting these trees would cost approximately $15-30 million, using an estimation that it would cost about $2000-3000 per hectare (for 30% of a total reforestation project) [10] for 11,000 ha of land.


To make the supply distribution process much simpler and more efficient, a necessary step, especially with supplies that are difficult to transport like water and fuel, is distributing them to their destination in their correct quantities before the storm strikes. From there, the resources then need to be placed in a protected area until the storm concludes. This makes the process easier, as less time and fewer resources would be needed after the storm. 

Since getting necessary materials out to citizens should be a priority for Puerto Rico and the United States, a focus on creating bunkers that can withstand the onslaught of a hurricane should be a major priority. The bunkers should have steel protection allowing for the best possible protection of the necessities inside. The placement of the bunkers is also important. Using geographical data and historical data, such as GIS data, to collect what each region is most likely to need in the aftermath of the storm and where in the surrounding area will environmental effects damage or protect the bunker. Searching for characteristics such as issues with environmental terrain, making travel after the storm difficult, and regions with significant supply needs that are harder to address in the aftermath of the storm.

Initially, the strategy should be to place down a few bunkers in the most opportune places in the territory, and then expanding in the future. There should be two overarching goals for bunker placement and development. First, emphasis should be placed on finding a location that makes the supply chain the most efficient. Secondly, analyzing the environmental and cost-efficient models to create a bunker that protects a large majority of the supplies held during the storm is a necessary step in the development of bunkers. Bunkers would have to be started during non-hurricane seasons to avoid the possible issues that tropical storms may bring. Although it is unreasonable to expect the bunker to be completed before a single year of construction concludes, the bunker should conclude construction within 3-5 years, allowing the bunkers to be useable for regions in the near future. The first ideal set of bunkers would be used to store supplies immediate after they arrive to port. Puerto Rico has eleven ports, meaning ideally at least eleven bunkers are built, with an additional four bunkers built in San Juan to store the additional resources coming there.