First look: Clean water for Texas colonias

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Driving the news: SOURCE Global, a public benefit corporation, is partnering up with Texas politicians and nonprofits to provide clean drinking water access to several colonias — unincorporated, low-income communities with limited resources, organizers tell Axios.

  • The water crisis has been driven by climate-related impacts on statewide water supply as well as a lack of political will to connect colonias to municipal water sources.

The backstory: For the largely low-income, Latino residents living in colonias — communities that don’t have basic human services like traditional water infrastructure — the state’s increasingly unreliable water supply, which relies heavily on drought-stricken rivers and reservoirs, worsens existing barriers to access.

  • “Colonia residents bought their land because they saw the opportunity to be homeowners, but they were never properly informed of the lack of political will to bring municipal water service to colonias,” Laura Ponce, executive director of the El Paso County nonprofit Project Bravo, tells Axios in an email.
  • “Without a safe source for drinking water, low-income colonia families take health risks like drinking potable water delivered by trucks, storing water in unsealed large containers, and minimizing their water consumption,” says Ponce.

Olga Ramos, a county commissioner in Maverick County, Texas, tells Axios in an email that there are more than 19 colonias in her precinct alone — and most are without access to safe water. 01-25-23

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