Quality water was Francisca Pavia's dream 20 years ago. She went door-to-door collecting signatures in 1995 for a project that will become a reality this fall.
“I'm very thankful, very happy,” Pavia said.
Pavia said construction in two colonias in Canutillo, Schuman Estates and Mayfair Nuway, will be completed by November or sooner. For the first time in the area's history, 300 residents will have fresh-smelling-and-tasting water that meets Texas standards.
“Border Inter-Faith is the one that started giving us the idea to get us together so we can get the city to pay attention to us,” Border Inter-Faith member Luis Cisneros said.
With the help from community nonprofit Border Inter-Faith, Pavia energized her neighbors to ask the county for connections to the main line. They knew the water was dirty, but after testing it, found their personal wells had fecal contamination, as well as traces of arsenic.
Taking their case to the United States Department of Agriculture, the county and El Paso Utilities Service Board, the community organizers secured nearly $4 million to install pipes that would connect them to the city's main line.
“It has been a long journey, because anytime you apply for a loan from the federal government it does take a long time,” EP Water Utilities Spokeswoman Christina Montoya said.
Water problems in colonias are far from solved. Five thousand people are still relying on expensive wells that provide them foul-smelling water that lead to rashes and sickness.
Pavia recommends these neighborhoods follow the grassroots campaign of Schuman Estates and Mayfair Nuway and motivate the county to intervene. Looking forward, Pavia has her eyes set yet another project. Pavia said they want to connect with the city's gas line.
“Right now we're also working with the gas. We're hoping that finishing up this project we can start with the gas,” Pavia said.
Schumann Estates could connect to city water as early as this month, while residents of Mayfair Nuway will have access by November.
Pipes connecting the city's main line are being built around the neighborhoods, going all the way up the driveways of each home. And the colonias already have fire hydrants.
Residents will pay a $75 installation fee, followed by monthly rates. People i talked to said this will be more affordable than the wells, which can cost up to $10,000, plus maintenance.
I asked a county infrastructure coordinator what lies ahead for new residents who choose to move to colonias without running water. He told me the county will continue to apply for grants to help these areas.