The United States is considered an industrialized, developed nation, but some areas of the country are still experiencing very serious issues not associated with a higher global standing.
One of these issues is the availability of clean drinking water, a problem most evident in the towns of Texas along the Mexican border.
“Some people have no idea that theres still third-world conditions in the most powerful country in the world, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat whose constituents live in some of the worst conditions, told The Texas Tribune.
According to a report from the publication, as many as 90,000 people along the Texas-Mexico border do not have running water, and countless others have water that is not safe enough to drink. Most of these residents are Hispanics, who, due to limited funds, were forced to move into housing developments in undesirable locations on land no one else wanted.
These areas have water, but the water is full of contaminants, so much so that many residents experience significant health issues as a result. Researchers investigating illnesses in the village of Vinton, just outside El Paso, found high levels of arsenic, salt, E. coli and other contaminants in the drinking water were most likely causing the gastrointestinal and skin issues frequently found among residents.
“We conclude that current water sources do not meet drinking water standards in some cases and there is a risk of water scarcity in the short-term due to prolonged drought in the region,” stated the official investigative report. “El Paso Water Utilities draws water from multiple sources, includingdeeper and reliable aquifers, keeps adequate water pressure, and complies with drinking water standards. This supplier is more reliable and dependable for the future and increases trust in piped water that can result in less bottled water expenses.”
What’s more, experts found half of the area’s residents had poor septic tank management, a factor likely contributing the contamination of the water supply. Fire risk was also increased for residents along the Texas-Mexico border because low water pressure in the system made half of all fire hydrants inspected nonoperational.
Unfortunately, those without quality drinking water are likely to remain so; the government has already given more than $1 billion in aid to improve water issues along the border. Over the last 30 years, the money has gone into clean water initiatives as it should have; however, local leaders have failed in their responsibility to properly oversee such projects.
A new water treatment plant built in Rio Bravo and El Cenizo was supposed to clean the water for more than 10,000 residents, but due to lax local interest in seeing the project through, the facility was not managed properly, and last year was brought up on charges for falsifying water purity reports.
In other border towns, politics get in the way of clean water progression just as they did in Rio Bravo; clean water near Rio Grande City has been limited due to political webs, despite a treatment plant that can provide thousands with drinking-quality water.
And according to experts, the population of these Hispanic communities is growing despite the fact the water issue remains unresolved.
For Hispanics who have little choice other than to drink the water they have available, purification beforehand is critical. The Washington State Department of Health outlines the following protocol for purifying water at home. Though this is typically used as an emergency protocol, for some residents it may be the only means of obtaining cleaner water.
Purifying by boiling
If your tap water is unsafe, boiling is the best method to kill disease-causing organisms.
If tap water is unavailable, the following may be considered as potential water sources. Water taken from these sources should be boiled before drinking.
- Rivers and streams
- Natural springs
Caution: Many chemical pollutants will not be removed by boiling.
Cloudy water should be filtered before boiling. Filter cloudy water using coffee filters, paper towels, cheesecloth or a cotton plug in a funnel.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one full minute.
- Let the water cool before drinking.
- Add two drops of household bleach per gallon to maintain water quality while in storage.
Purifying by adding liquid chlorine bleach
- Treat water by adding liquid household bleach, such as Clorox or Purex.
- Household bleach is typically between 5.25 percent and 8.25 percent chlorine. Read the label.
- Avoid using bleaches that contain perfumes, dyes and other additives. Be sure to read the label.
- Cloudy water should be filtered before adding bleach.
- Place the water in a clean container. Add the amount of bleach according to the table below.
|1 quart/1 liter of water||5 drops of bleach|
|1/2 gallon/2 quarts/2 liters of water||10 drops of bleach|
|1 gallon of water||1/4 teaspoon of bleach|
|5 gallons of water||1 teaspoon of bleach|
|10 gallons of water||2 teaspoons of bleach|
- Mix thoroughly and let stand for at least 60 minutes before drinking.
It is important to note that bleach will not kill all disease-causing pathogens found in ground water.