Sustainable Wastewater Systems for Texas Colonias: Alternatives Analysis for El Paso County
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Government institutions and non-governmental organizations have made great strides in improving infrastructure and services to colonias (Spanish for communities or neighborhoods) in Texas. Colonias are a response to the lack of affordable housing along the border but a high demand for cheap labor in agriculture, manufacturing and service industries. These communities lack basic infrastructure like accessible roads, electricity, and wastewater and water services. Despite progress made from local, state and federal initiatives to bring colonias to these municipal services, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, there are still 337 communities that fall under the most critical need area (red). The majority located in El Paso County, located on the western border of Texas and Mexico. Many of these colonias that continue to lack access to wastewater are located in remote areas and may rely on either failing septic systems, cesspools or outhouses that may pose a risk to private wells. Adequate wastewater disposal systems are critical to preventing contaminated water from harming colonias residents and their surrounding communities, and the ecosystem of the Rio Grande Valley. Through analysis of the current state of these colonias, research on different wastewater solutions being implemented around the world, and interviews with colonia experts, a dry composting toilet is proposed for policy makers, community activists, and wastewater utilities to consider for implementation.