We investigated the influence of recent and future land-cover changes on stream flow of a watershed northeastern Puerto Rico using hydrological modeling and simulation analysis. Monthly and average annual stream flows were compared between an agricultural period (1973–1980) and an urbanized/reforested period (1988–1995) using the revised Generalized Watershed Loading Function model. Our validated results show that a smaller proportion of rainfall became stream flows in the urbanized/forested period compared with the agricultural period, apparently because of reforestation. Sensitivity analysis of the model showed that evapotranspiration, precipitation, and curve number were the most significant factors influencing stream flow. Simulations of projected land-cover scenarios indicate that annual stream flows would increase by 9·6% in a total urbanization scenario, decrease by 3·6% in a total reforestation scenario, and decrease by 1·1% if both reforestation and urbanization continue at their current rates to 2020. An imposed hurricane event that was similar in scale to the largest recent event on the three land-cover scenarios would increase the daily stream flow by 62·1%, 68·4% and 67·1% respectively. Owing to the environmental setting of eastern Puerto Rico, where sea breezes caused by temperature differences between land surface and the ocean dominate the local climate, we suggest that managing local land-cover changes can have important consequences for water management. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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