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College of Engineering | February 1, 2022

UTEP Professor Contributes to Grant-Winning Effort to Provide Safe Water to Underserved Texans

UTEP Professor Contributes to Grant-Winning Effort to Provide Safe Water to Underserved Texans


Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D., civil engineering associate professor in The University of Texas at El Paso College of Engineering, is on the cusp of helping provide thousands of households and dozens of schools in Texas with clean affordable water as part of her work with Texas Water Trade, a nonprofit devoted to building long-lasting water supplies for the state.

The organization recently announced that it received a $500,000 grant from Lyda Hill Philanthropies to launch Clean Water for All Texans, a water service that will provide clean, affordable water to underserved populations throughout the state.

“This is a very impactful project, as clean water is a very basic factor to success in many facets of life. I am proud that Dr. Santiago has garnered this award will benefit communities in need. It demonstrates how proactive the College of Engineering faculty are in the community,” said Patricia Nava, Ph.D., interim Dean of the College of Engineering.

Clean Water for All Texans was one of five projects selected from 172 proposals as part of the Lone Star Prize competition, a joint effort of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Lever for Change to find and fund bold solutions focused on building healthier, stronger communities in Texas.

“We are so honored to receive startup funding to pursue our vision of delivering affordable, clean water to millions of Texans who are living today without secure drinking water,” said Sharlene Leurig, CEO of Texas Water Trade. “By securing this startup grant, we can develop our business plan, initiate our engagement with communities in need and onboard a CEO who can bring this innovative subscription service to life.”

Texas Water Trade is positioned to receive additional funding for the project from Lyda Hill Philanthropies if key performance indicators are met throughout the next year.

Texas Water Trade’s new subsidiary will aim to close the clean water gap for millions of Texans who do not have consistent access to clean, affordable drinking water. The organization will deploy and maintain onsite water treatment technologies for households and schools using a subscription payment system.

“The subscription-based service proposed by Texas Water Trade promises to be sustainable, affordable solution to close the decades-old clean water gap among Texas households along the border and elsewhere,” Santiago said.

During the next few years, Texas Water Trade’s new subsidiary will aim to test and validate its solution in at least three high-need communities, each representing a different water access challenge. They include:

  • The Rio Grande Valley, where 140,000 Texans, many living in informal developments known as colonias, are living with no water services.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where homes and schools served by public utilities face significant costs to mitigate lead contamination in their drinking water.
  • Central Texas, one of the fastest-growing regions of the country, where growth is outpacing extension of public water systems — leaving households reliant on unregulated groundwater wells increasingly vulnerable to groundwater contamination.

Santiago continues her activities in water resources, as she joined Leurig to discuss state water issues with Matt Crommett, director at Lyda Hill Philanthropies, on Oct. 27, 2021, at the Texas at the virtual BigBANG! Conference.

College of Engineering Communications

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