Soft Path to Water
This project was initiated in response to the conditions of people living in colonias, which are unincorporated communities lacking basic infrastructure such as potable water, and sanitation systems. The soft path to water is an alternative way to meet water needs through means such as conservation measures, collection, and use of rainfall, local water treatment, and decentralized waste management. This method is an alternative to the hard path that relies on centralized infrastructure that uses single-pipe distribution networks and centralized waste collection. However, there is a lack of unified information about soft path technologies that could help residents identify and implement these technologies. Research across different media was done, including, books, interviews with professionals, and online sources to identify appropriate technologies. It can be concluded that even small steps on the soft path can have a significant impact on a person's water footprint. The outcome is a roadmap for the soft path to water that will lead to better access to water for residents of colonias and improved water management for all users.
The soft path to water focuses on:
- Reducing water demand through conservation practices or reduced use technologies.
- Increasing water supply through the use of local sources and or treatment at a local level.
- Collecting, treating, and reusing wastewater at a local level.
The soft path to water can be a viable alternative to improved water security for communities on the U.S./Mexico border region.
1)To research and create a guide that combines technologies and tools that will help people, especially in colonias, to manage their water resources.
2) Provide guidance on what resources can aid each area of someone’s home and his or her community as a whole.
3) Educate people on water usage, efficient practices, and the help they can receive to implement these solutions.
4) Educate communities on the need that is present in these areas, and to evoke a sense of fellowship to contribute to improving the basic human needs of these communities
1) Literature review on the soft path to water concepts, technologies, and colonia conditions.
2) Key informant interviews with community leaders, water professionals, and other professionals in the areas of health, border studies, public policy, among others.
3) Cost-benefit analysis.
4) Reviewing past projects such as Water Matters to see the impact of the implementation of a soft path technology.
The result is a guide that is divided into chapters and individual and community level-based approaches to the soft path. Each solution has a representation of the solution as well as the different cost and benefits associated with each. The guide seeks to be a collection of technologies, methods, and various resources that could display what the soft path could achieve towards water productivity and water justice.
This project has the potential to be a guide for communities in and outside of colonias in water management and treatment. It seeks to educate people on the soft path alternatives that are generally easier to implement and maintain than the hard path. The guide aims to be a different source that shows the community not only what issues they are facing, but that also show multiple possible approaches that could improve their quality of life.
Supported by the United States Department of Agriculture through grant number 2015-68007-23130.
The research reported in this poster was supported by the Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM), and Engineers for a Sustainable World student chapter.
Special thanks to all the professionals in and outside the university for their essential collaboration in this project.
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U.S.-Mexico Border Needs Assessment and Support Project:
Phase II Assessment Report(Rep.). (2016). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from RCAP website: https://rcap.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/03/RCAP_Colonias-Phase-II-AssessmentReport_FINAL_web.pdf
- Soft Path to Water: cerm/research/Soft-Path-to-Water-Guide.docx
- La Guia al Camino Alterno del Agua: cerm/research/La-Guia-al-Camino-Alterno-del-Agua.docx
- Poster: cerm/research/Couri-Presentation.pdf
- PowerPoint Doc. (English): cerm/research/The-Guide-Part-One-Final.pptx
- PowerPoint Doc. (Spanish): cerm/research/The-Guide-Part-One-Final-Spanish.pptx
- Be Water Wise at Home: cerm/research/be-water-wise-at-home.pdf
- Rainwater Harvesting with Rain Barrels: cerm/research/rainwater-harvesting-with-rain-barrels.pdf