Journal of Environmental Health
September 2016, Volume 79, No. 2, 14–20
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A Comparison of Water-Related Perceptions and Practices Among West Texas and South New Mexico Colonia Residents Using Hauled-Stored and Private Well Water
Lydia B. Garcia, MPH, University of Texas at El Paso
Christina Sobin, PhD, University of Texas at El Paso, The Rockefeller University
Joseph Tomaka, PhD, New Mexico State University
Ivonne Santiago, PhD, University of Texas at El Paso
Rebecca Palacios, PhD, New Mexico State University
W. Shane Walker, PhD, University of Texas at El Paso
In Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, colonias refer to unincorporated rural settlements along the U.S.–Mexico border. Colonias lack governance and public services normally provided by local government (Ward, 1999). Residents typically rely on well water or hauled water stored in above-ground containers. This study attempted to quantify and compare water-related perceptions and practices of colonia residents. No significant differences were observed between colonia residents using well water versus hauled-stored water for water quality perceptions and water use practices. Most, however, had negative perceptions of their water supply; a majority perceived daily water supplies as not potable. Significant paradoxical discrepancies between perceptions and practice were identified. This study adds to a small but growing literature on subjective dimensions of quality of life indicators for colonia residents. Additional studies are needed to quantify the type and level of health risks posed by compromised water supplies for this vulnerable population. Understanding differences in perceptions and practices associated with water sources could help to identify which subpopulations of colonia residents are in greatest need of water infrastructure or remediation.