Case Study: South Texas Colonias

Without an advocate or political representation to ensure an equity of utility services, these kinds of communities are often overlooked for infrastructure funding. They have no municipal source of clean running water. Residents often draw water from irrigation ditches and store it in plastic barrels. The lack of wastewater management results in flooding and leaking and overflowing septic systems, or worse, no wastewater removal at all.The Rio Grande Valley has the highest rate of water-transmitted diseases in the United States.

Most of these projects were “self help” construction projects which enlisted community volunteers to help curb costs. Project beneficiaries contributed organizing skills, construction labor and/or project money to improve their own neighborhoods.

  • Bellaire: 39 families were connected to City of Weslaco sewer lines and their failed septic tanks were decommissioned.
  • Ramosville: 53 families in Weslaco colonia were served with city sewer and their failed septic tanks were removed.
  • Monte Carlos Estates: This “for-profit” subdivision project was engineered to also benefit the four colonias of the San Carlos West self-help project (see below).
  • San Carlos West: This area has high water table and very tight, clay soils, resulting a large percentage of failed septic tanks with surfacing sewage in residents’ backyards. The project provided sewer service and decommissioned the failed septic systems for approximately 200 families.
  • East Montana/Homestead: Over 1,500 colonia residents in El Paso County received water hook-ups.
  • Lopezville: 170 colonia residents in Hidalgo County received sewer service and their failed septic tanks were decommissioned.
  • Wisconsin Rd.: Approximately 50 colonia residents received water and county-approved septic services.


Getting Hooked Up,” The Rio Grande Monitor, May 7, 2001

“Sweat Equity Payoff,” The Rio Grande Monitor, May 10, 2001

“Colonia program boosted by rep,” The Rio Grande Monitor, May 23, 2001

“Do-It-Yourself,” The Rio Grande Monitor, August 11, 2001

“Illness, Stench Spur Sewage Project,” The Rio Grande Monitor, February 18, 2002