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Olga Thomas and other residents of Hueco Tanks rely on a private company to haul water to their neighborhood. Now she can count on her hydro panels for drinking water. May 23, 2023.

Without access to water lines, Texas colonias residents are pulling water from the desert air

Thousands of low-income, Latino residents in Texas still do not have safe drinking water. In one El Paso colonia, some residents are using solar distillation to generate water from the air.

Olga Thomas in her garden in Hueco Tanks. The prickly pear cacti and cresote in her garden can survive the Chihuahuan Desert climate. May 23, 2023.
Hueco Tanks is on the eastern edge of El Paso County, Texas. The area was subdivided in the 1980s but has never received water or sewer service.  May 23, 2023.

Colonias residents go decades without running water 

A graphic showing how a hydropanel works.
A billboard on the side of Montana Avenue in far eastern El Paso County advertises property in Hueco Tanks. May 23, 2023.

A “soft path to water”

County, advocates seek long-term plan for Hueco Tanks

Olga Thomas was born in Laredo and raised in Chicago. Despite the hardships of living without water and sewer service, she enjoys the peacefulness of her home in Hueco Tanks. May 23, 2023.
Olga Thomas’ two hydro panels provide enough drinking water for her household.  “It's like having your own little creek with natural water,” she said.  May 23, 2023.

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Environment State government Water supply