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Maria Martínez’s son Jose Martínez removes a makeshift cover for plumbing near a water tank on April 21, 2023. Without the insulation during the winter, the pipes are prone to burst in the colder temperatures.
Broken Pipes

Texas likely will spend billions fixing its water systems. Will it reach these forgotten colonias?

An estimated 500,000 people live in thousands of colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. Largely built between the 1950s and 1980s, these communities have been promised water — but it has never come.

María Martinez checks the water levels by tapping the tank and referring to the markings. Water typically lasts around two weeks before a refill is necessary.

The plight of Texas colonias

Aerial photos of Colonia Hueco Tanks.
Martínez buys bottled water, an added expense on top of the $180 she spends every two weeks for water storage.

Incentivizing cooperation for the colonias 

State Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, asks a question during a testimony on the unintended consequences of House Bill 3 during a House Public Education Committee hearing on Oct. 28, 2019

Sometimes, local action helps 

Francisca Quintanilla, 65, community organizer with La Unión del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, poses for a photo in Mission on April 19, 2023.
First: Asunción Martínez, 80, lifts up the cover to the septic tank with his wife Graciela E. González de Martínez, 77, right, watches at their home in Mission on April 19, 2023. The homeowners say that when it floods in their backyard the water enters the septic tank subsequently mixing the waste with the rain water. As a result they have to hire someone that can clean up. Last: Gloria Sandoval plays with her dog at her home in Mission. Next to her, pots and plants are seen on top of a cover for the septic…
Deep ditches that were designed to keep the water from completely flooding the area are seen at the Colonia Ramirez 4 in Mission, Texas on April 19, 2023. Residents in this colonia rely on septic tanks, they get flooded often, and after they applied for a state grant they will be getting drainage soon.

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