Ending water poverty for the state’s most marginalized
In 2021, more than a million Texans still do not have safe, reliable drinking water at home – whether due to a lack of indoor plumbing or contaminated source water. That is why Texas Water Trade is collaborating with The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to design a water service provider that can provide clean water to any Texas household.
The concept, “Clean Water for All Texans,” was born from our finalist submission to the $10 million Lone Star Prize, in which we proposed launching a subscription-based water service that could deploy onsite water treatment systems to thousands of households and dozens of schools in Texas that do not have access to affordable and reliable clean water today. Texas Water Trade and our partners were honored to be one of five finalist projects selected from 172 proposals as part of the Lone Star Prize competition.
In fall 2021, Texas Water Trade received a $500,000 startup grant from Lyda Hill Philanthropies to launch this water service subsidiary, Vida Water, which will deploy the innovative subscription-based water service in underserved parts of Texas.
The one-year startup grant will be used to develop a business plan, initiate engagement with communities in need and onboard a CEO who can bring this water service subsidiary to life. Texas Water Trade is positioned to receive additional funding for the project from Lyda Hill Philanthropies if key performance indicators are met over the coming year.
Texas Water Trade, through this new subsidiary, will enable the deployment and maintenance of onsite water treatment technologies – commercially-available treatment systems used by millions of Americans today–for households and schools using a subscription payment system designed to beat what the lowest income Texans pay today for bottled water. While these readily available treatment systems can be found in many hardware stores, few households living in water poverty make use of these treatment technologies, and instead turn to bottled water to provide the water they need for cooking and drinking. The reasons for this technology access gap include lack of confidence in selecting appropriate treatment systems and inability to pay for the upfront purchase and installation costs.
Over 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, including:
- Rio Grande Valley, where the state estimates 140,000 Texans, many living in informal developments known as colonias, are living with no water services at all. These households typically spend over $100 a month on hauled water and bottled water, significantly more than water utility customers. Their circumstances mirror the reality of many other uncounted Texans throughout the state, including in some of Texas’ wealthiest metropolitan areas.
- Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where homes and schools served by public utilities face significant costs to mitigate lead contamination in their drinking water. Overall, nearly 20 percent of the state’s population gets its water from utilities that have violated safe drinking water standards. Systems serving mostly Latino population are twice as likely to violate regulations
- 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. Statewide, an estimated 1.3 million Texans rely on household groundwater wells that are unregulated for pollutants. Many are tainted with heavy metals and pathogens that can cause wide-ranging preventable illnesses.
Texas Water Trade is thrilled to collaborate with University of Texas-El Paso and others dedicated to closing the state’s clean water gap and bringing this vision to life. If you know of a community without clean, reliable water, we welcome you to contact us to help learn their story and explore whether Vida Water could bring affordable and realistic water solutions to them.