Skip to main content

College of Engineering | February 3, 2023

Poor Drinking Water Quality a Major Concern for Low-Income Minority Populations in Texas, According to UTEP Coordinated Survey

Poor Drinking Water Quality a Major Concern for Low-Income Minority Populations in Texas, According to UTEP Coordinated Survey


A new survey coordinated by Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D., civil engineering associate professor at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and conducted by local community health organizations has revealed a significant disparity in the quality of drinking water experienced by Black and Hispanic populations in Texas.

The survey included 650 households in four unincorporated communities, known as colonias in El Paso County and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Two-thirds of the respondents were connected to public water systems while the remaining households had no water infrastructure and were forced to rely on hauled water that is stored in large tanks for days or weeks before it is used. According to the survey results, most of the respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of their drinking water, leading to a reliance on bottled water as their primary source of drinking water.

The survey was funded as part of a grant from Texas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies to help Texas Water Trade launch a water service that will provide clean, affordable, and safe drinking water to underserved communities in Texas. The service, Vida Water, plans to deploy and maintain onsite water treatment technologies for households and schools using a subscription payment system.

“While we’ve long known that millions of Texans do not have access to clean, affordable water, these survey results will help us pinpoint which communities and neighborhoods are facing the biggest challenges,” said Santiago. "No one should have to worry about the quality of their drinking water, and it is unacceptable that large portions of the population are forced to rely on bottled water or hauled water that poses a serious risk to their health."

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the practice of relying on hauled water creates a serious risk of water-borne illnesses. Texas Water Trade is committed to working with state and local leaders to address this pressing issue and improve access to safe drinking water for all residents in the state.

Jim Drees, CEO of Vida Water, said the new survey results will help guide where Vida Water starts providing point-of-use water filtration service later this year. “It’s pretty clear that the border communities, especially the colonias neighborhoods, are facing some of the biggest challenges in terms of public health and the high costs of buying bottled water,” he said. “Our upcoming launch will prioritize these underserved communities.”

Of those surveyed, 61 percent responded that they did not think their water was safe to drink, with the biggest concerns being microbes (74 percent), chemicals (73 percent) and lead (53 percent.) Citing the better taste, smell, and quality, more than half (57 percent) of the households reported that they relied on bottled water as their primary source of drinking water, with roughly half of them traveling more than 10 miles to buy it once or twice a week.

This new survey results sheds light on the pressing need for action to address the disproportionate impact of poor drinking water quality on low-income minority populations in Texas. With the state's growing population, it is crucial that state and local officials take swift action to improve the quality of drinking water for all residents and ensure that everyone has access to safe and clean drinking water.

The findings of this survey serve as a reminder that safe drinking water is a basic human right that should be accessible to all, regardless of income or race. For more information about Texas Water Trade, please visit:

College of Engineering Communications

[Engineering News Archive]