A Retrospective Analysis of Program Outcomes and Lessons Learned on Implementing First-Time Wastewater Infrastructure in Underserved Communities in Texas from 1995 through 2017

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In Texas, informal settlements called colonias formed from the 1950s to the 1980s without the most basic municipal infrastructure. Federal and Texas agencies authorized about $1 billion for first-time water and wastewater services for about 300,000 residents from 1995 through 2017. The research uses a mix-method approach to assesses at a high level the distribution of funds and outcomes achieved across 31 counties adjacent to the Texas-Mexico border, identifies where needs continue, examines population growth, and compiles programmatic and technical lessons learned. The results show wastewater coverage increased from less than 20% of the colonia population to over 75%. Funds were generally distributed equitably amongst the counties and expected outcomes were achieved. Grant funding was an incentive for cities with more institutional capacity and operational efficiencies to extend service to colonias and provide regional solutions outside city limits. Despite the progress, the most considerable need remains in smaller and more isolated colonias, where overcoming the barriers to service will be costly. Important lessons were learned, such as adopting laws to prevent further proliferation of colonias, the inclusion of household connections within the project ensured customers connected quickly, and regular coordination amongst funding agencies avoided duplication. Unintended consequences included oversized facilities as population growth did not occur as expected. Replacing what is now aging infrastructure requires a strategy and could include a low-cost loan program. Finally, onsite systems are a potential solution for overcoming barriers to service for those isolated colonias.

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Reliable estimation of sewage flow rates is essential for the proper design of sewers, pumping stations, and treatment plants. The design of the various components of the sewerage system should be based on the most critical flow rates with a focus on extremely low and peak flow rates that would be sustained for a duration related to the acceptable limits of behavior of the components under consideration. The extreme flow conditions and to what extent they differ from the average values are closely related to the size of the community or network, and the socioeconomic conditions. A single pumping station is usually sufficient to pump flow from small community in either flat or non-undulating topography. Therefore, the hydraulic loading on the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) results from the pumped flow from the pumping station rather than the trunk sewer flow. The intermittent operation of the pumping units further accentuates the sewage hydrograph in the final trunk sewer. Accordingly, the design flow for the various components of the WWTP should be determined based on their relevant flow factors. In this study, analysis of one representative small community out of five monitored small communities in Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is presented. Pumped sewage flow rates were measured and the sewer incoming flows were hydraulically derived. The hourly and daily sewer and pumped flow records were analyzed to derive the relationship between the flow factors that would be sustained for various durations (instantaneously, 1 h, 2 h, etc.) and their probability of non-exceedance. The resulting peaking factors with a consideration for their sustained flow duration and specified probability would permit the design of the various components of the treatment plant using more accurate critical flows.
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Contrary to reports of 100% access to safe water and sanitation in international surveys, the United States (US) has a complex landscape of low-income water problems. This paper begins with a critical international perspective on water and poverty in the US. It shows that the US had a declining role in international water programs during the late-20th century, which contributed to limited international awareness of low-income water programs in the US, and limited US awareness of low-income water issues. To address the first problem, we provide an overview of low-income water programs in the US with an emphasis on those that serve small communities. We then examine census data on inadequate water systems in Colorado, which indicate that severe plumbing deficiencies persist despite these public water programs. Inadequate plumbing rates are lower than income poverty rates, however, which indicate partially successful strategies for achieving low-income water services. Analysis of local data in urban, rural, and mountainous areas of the state shows that poverty and water problems are correlated in complex ways, which has implications for all nations striving for universal access to safe water and sanitation.
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Colonias, which are unincorporated border settlements in the United States, have emerged in rural areas without the governance and services normally provided by local government. Colonia residents live in poverty and lack adequate health care, potable water, and sanitation systems. These conditions create substantial health risks for themselves and surrounding communities. By 2001, more than 1,400 colonias were identified in Texas. Cooperation with several Federal and Texas state agencies has allowed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to improve colonia Geographic Information System (GIS) boundaries and develop the Colonia Health, Infrastructure, and Platting Status tool (CHIPS). Together, the GIS boundaries and CHIPS aid the Texas government in prioritizing the limited funds that are available for infrastructure improvement. CHIPS's report generator can be tailored to the needs of the user, providing either broad or specific output. CHIPS is publicly available on the U.S. Geological Survey Border Environmental Health Initiative website at Resumen: Las colonias, asentamientos fronterizos no oficiales en los Estados Unidos, han surgido en zonas rurales sin el apoyo y servicios normalmente prestados por los gobiernos locales. Los residentes de las colonias viven en condiciones de pobreza y carecen de acceso a servicios adecuados de atención médica, agua potable y desagüe. Estas condiciones son la fuente de graves riesgos para la salud de sus habitantes y la de las comunidades aledañas. En el año 2001, más de 1,400 colonias fueron identificadas en Texas. La cooperación entre diversas agencias federales y del estado de Texas ha permitido al Servicio Geológico de los Estados Unidos (USGS) mejorar los Sistemas de Información Geográfica (SIG) de los límites de las colonias y desarrollar la Herramienta del Estado de Salud, Infraestructura y Catastro de las Colonias (CHIPS). Ambas herramientas, los limites SIG y CHIPS, ayudan al gobierno de Texas a priorizar el uso de fondos limitados que están disponibles para el mejoramiento de la infraestructura pública. El generador de reportes de CHIPS puede ser modificado de acuerdo a las necesidades del usuario, proporcionando resultados generales o específicos. CHIPS está a disposición del público en el sitio Web de la Iniciativa de la Salud Ambiental de la Frontera México-Estados Unidos del Servicio Geológico de los Estados Unidos
Colonias are unincorporated subdivisions located in the rural, largely unregulated portion of counties where building codes and regulations are either nonexistent or unenforceable. Colonias are characterized by Third World living conditions where basic infrastructure services such as wastewater collection and treatment, drainage, paved streeets, and, in some cases, electricity is lacking. In Texas, there are approximately 1193 colonias (home to an estimated 280 000 people, mostly Hispanic) concentrated outside of El Paso, and in counties comprising the lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1989 and 1991, voters approved constitutional amendments that authorized the sale of $250 M in water development bonds to help finance water projects for the colonias. Presently, 25 such projects are in various stages of development and construction. This paper examines colonia geographical distribution, voting patterns produced by two constitutional amendment elections, and outlines procedural guidelines for the economically distressed areas program. -Author
More than one billion people around the world lack access to clean, reliable sources of water. Actual water shortages may play a role in many cases, but it is often just as likely that lack of the appropriate infrastructure - from treatment facilities to a means to place pipes into individual households - is a leading cause of inadequate water access. If the solution is to improve such infrastructure, who is going to pay for it? This article explores this issue in poor communities in the border region of Texas and applies lessons learned there to the many water-poor communities around the globe.
Geographically weighted regression (GWR) was introduced to the geography literature by Brunsdon et al. (1996) to study the potential for relationships in a regression model to vary in geographical space, or what is termed parametric nonstationarity. GWR is based on the non-parametric technique of locally weighted regression developed in statistics for curve-fitting and smoothing applications, where local regression parameters are estimated using subsets of data proximate to a model estimation point in variable space. The innovation with GWR is using a subset of data proximate to the model calibration location in geographical space instead of variable space. While the emphasis in traditional locally weighted regression in statistics has been on curve-fitting, that is estimating or predic ting the response variable, GWR has been presented as a method to conduct inference on spatially varying relationships, in an attempt to extend the original emphasis on prediction to confirmatory analysis (P+¡ez and Wheeler 2009)
Experience in colonias--informal communities in Texas characterized by the absence of water and sewer systems--demonstrates that a well-funded programme to subsidize infrastructure can falter if the incentives and management capacity of involved organizations do not support effective implementation. The Texas Legislature established the Economic Distressed Areas Programme (EDAP) in 1989 to subsidize service providers constructing water and sewer systems in colonias. A longitudinal assessment of EDAP found that the programme performed poorly until the late 1990s when the institutional context of the agency administering the programme changed. These changes led to a more effective set of incentives to implement the programme and improved performance. General lessons regarding programme performance are derived from the research results.
Since 1989, the United States Federal Government and the State of Texas have targeted water and wastewater infrastructure development spending in the colonias to improve access to safe, reliable and adequate water supplies and wastewater service. Prior to widespread installation of piped, treated water infrastructure, waterborne illnesses attained levels only seen in developing countries. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent since 1989 on water and wastewater infrastructure improvements, roughly a quarter of colonias still lacked basic access to water and wastewater services. Previous research and assessments of where this government spending has been targeted have not evaluated all four largest funding sources together or demonstrated the impacts of water and wastewater infrastructure spending on either public health or the local economy. This report evaluates the first of these problems by analyzing government spending of these funding sources from 1996 to 2006 in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Starr counties. The report provides the history and context of the Texas colonia problem, discusses who provides water and wastewater services to the colonias, and describes the make-up of federal and state financial assistance to the colonias to develop their water and wastewater infrastructure. Conventional understandings of where government spending is going, for what, and to whom, are challenged by the data and analysis. Analysis results indicate greater spending on wastewater infrastructure improvements than water service in addition to greater allocation to municipal systems that extended service into colonia areas historically operated by water service corporations. Further research may build on this data as well as regional economic and epidemiological data to determine outcomes of the spending in quantitative terms using various impact assessment methodologies. This report concludes with a discussion of impact assessment.
In 1998, former Texas Comptroller John Sharp published Bordering the Future: Challenge and Opportunity in the Texas Border Region,which provided an assessment of the economic, political, and social condition of the Texas border counties. This report, commissioned by the US / Mexico Border Counties Coalition, extends those findings to all of the 24 U.S. counties that are contiguous with Mexico. As a region, if these 24 counties were the 51st state, how would they compare with the rest of the nation?
Water matters: a retrospective health impact assessment (HIA) of water and sanitation infrastructure in Socorro and San Elizario
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