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How a fading West Texas town has gone four years without safe drinking water

Some Toyah residents say state regulators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality were “negligent” and want to know what took so long. The Texas attorney general has filed a lawsuit.

By Martha Pskowski, Inside Climate News, and Mitch Borden, Marfa Public Radio
The Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Texas Law School conducted water testing at houses in Toyah in Feburary 2023.

Matthew Frankel of UT Austin discusses water testing with Angel Machuca in February 2023.

A history of water problems

Toyah's population has dwindled to around 100 people and numerous abandoned buildings dot the town.
An empty swimming pool sits behind Toyah's city hall.

Machuca investigates

Dials at the Toyah surface water treatment plant.

A council ally

Angel Machuca, seated on left, and Kelly Haragan, standing in center, discuss water testing in Toyah in February 2023.

Machuca reaches out

Toyah residents had their water tested by the UT Austin Environmental Law clinic in February.

‘How are we going to get water to this community?’

Ed Puckett helps operate Toyah's water treatment plant on a volunteer basis. During a tour of the plant in early February, he maintained that the water is safe to drink.
Reeves County began distributing bottled drinking water in January to Toyah residents. County employees store pallets of water bottles in town.

Those who drink the water and those who don’t

Loretta Campos, 93, photographed at her home in Toyah. She continues to drink the city water because people she trusts have said it is safe.

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Environment Water supply