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Water Disparities in Texas Colonias, USA


Colonias are impoverished communities along the US-Mexico border created by predatory developers. The population is all Mexican immigrants who are either unemployed or rely on seasonal work for their income.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Water Disparities in Texas Colonias, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Texas
Location of conflict:Agua Dulce
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Urban development conflicts
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

One resident pays $187 a month to live in a dirt-floored shack that is part broken-down motor home, part splintered plywood shed.

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:up to 400,000 people
Start of the conflict:1950
Relevant government actors:The Colonia Initiatives Program Office of the Texas Secretary of State; Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Texas Health and Human Services Commission; Regional Councils of Governments; Environmental Protection Agency; United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development; Texas Cooperative Extension Service; Border Environment Cooperation Commission, a binational agency charged with improving environmental conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border
International and Finance InstitutionsNorth American Development Bank
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Proyecto Desarrollo Humano
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsWater- and mosquito-borne illnesses are rampant, the result of poor drainage, pooling sewage and water contaminated by leaking septic tanks. Burning garbage, cockroaches, vermin and mold lead to high rates of asthma, rashes and lice infestations. Other health impacts include high rates of tuberculosis that are two times the state average and four times the national rate, and the lingering presence of Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, almost unheard of in most of the country (
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:New legislation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:While there have been some improvements, many colonias continue to lack access to clean water and infrastructure for basic needs. When it is made available, it is too costly to hook up to and these communities aren't provided with the resources needed to make use of the infrastructure.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

creation of EDAP
[click to view]

Addressing Critical Water Access Issues Along the US-Mexico Border
[click to view]

Border Colonia Access Program: 2001 Senate Bill 1296 of Texas 77th Legislature
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Texas Secretary of State Colonias FAQs
[click to view]

"TRACKING THE PROGRESS OF STATE FUNDED PROJECTS THAT BENEFIT COLONIAS", by The Colonia Initiatives Program, Office of the Texas Secretary of State
[click to view]

Border Towns Struggle to Protect Water Infrastructure
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Impoverished border town grows from shacks into community
[click to view]

[2] Texas Tribune - Border Towns Struggle to Protect Water Infrastructure
[click to view]

Conditions, Health Risks Sicken Colonias Residents
[click to view]

[1] "Texas Colonias: A Thumbnail Sketch of Conditions, Issues, Challenges and Opportunities"
[click to view]

A Focus on Helping Colonia Residents With Health Law
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video: Health and Conditions in Texas' Colonias
[click to view]

An audio and visual website about Las Colonias, the Forgotten Americans from PBS
[click to view]

ABC News story on the struggle to survive in Texas Colonias
[click to view]

Map of Colonias
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta information
Contributor:Bernadette Grafton, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update07/05/2015
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