Living on the Edge

Junior+multimedia+journalism+major+Damaris+Reyes+demonstrates+the+way+her+family+collects+water+for+daily+use.++

Michaela Roman

Junior multimedia journalism major Damaris Reyes demonstrates the way her family collects water for daily use.

Kimberly Valle , Staff Reporter

Hueco Tanks is about an hour away from El Paso, heading east. It is known for its historic sites, state park and small neighborhoods. Since the neighborhood’s settlement, there have been minor changes, although one issue still remains.

UTEP student Damaris Reyes, junior multimedia journalism major, said she and her family have to monitor how much water they use every day. Neighborhoods in Hueco Tanks do not have city water pipes running through their homes.

“There’s been times were we don’t keep track of how much is left, and we have gone two or three days without water,” Reyes said.

Reyes has been living with her parents’ for about 17 years. A blank tank stands next to their home taller than the house itself. This tank holds up to 2,800 gallons of water. Every six months a Mountain View water truck carefully tracks how much water is being used at a cost of $50 dollars each time

Water pipes from the tank run into the home. Next to the tank, there is a wooden shed that stores a small blue tank that pumps the water into the pipes that go into the home.

“We do limit ourselves with water usage just for the fact of knowing that there is only a certain amount that we have,” Reyes said.

Because Hueco Tanks is not within El Paso city limits, there is not much city limits can do

Timothy Collins, sociology and anthropology professor, said the reason why these neighborhoods do not have city water is because there are not enough people living in the Hueco Tanks area. It

would cost a lot to construct pipes in the neighborhoods.

“Any decision they make has to be considered in terms of whether it’s cost effective or not, whether they are going to lose money. It’s going to cost a lot to deliver the infrastructure, there’s not the demand to justify it,” Collins said. “The city will say ‘oh it’s a horrible situation,’ however it is outside our jurisdiction, we don’t have the authority of what’s going on
in the colonias.”

The Hueco Tanks territory is owned by private owners who do not provide the resources that city housing does.

“Farmers sell lands promising the people that will get resources sent to them, they sell land with out services in order to make money,” Collins said.

Many people cannot afford city houses in the El Paso area, therefore, they purchase territory that sits well with in their pocket and build houses outside city limits.

Reyes and her family have to use a  limited amount of water.

The water in the tank is not drinkable, so Reyes and her family have to stock up with two, five-gallon water jugs and packs of water bottles. The average conventional toilet can use from to five to seven gallons per flush. In Reyes’ case, their low-flow model toilet uses up to 1.6 gallons per flush.

Reyes and her family have to sometimes reuse the water for each load of laundry they do in a day.

“In order to put it back into the washing machine, my mother has to use a smaller bucket from the big container that they already use and puts it back into the washing machine,” Reyes said. “The only time that water is thrown away is when they are washing whites and colored clothes.”

Jorge Reyes, Damaris’ father, said if they do not notice they need to refill the tank on a Friday, they have to wait until the next business day for a water truck to be available. The lack of water in the tanks can destroy the pipes and the water pump, and replacing the damaged equipment can
cost up to $200.

“We refill the tank when we have 100 gallons left,” Jorge Reyes said. “In the city, hardly anyone is taking care of the water. In the news, you hear them say take care of the water, but no one understands, and for us it is not only that we understand the importance of it, but because we have to.”

The people who reside at these neighborhoods have hosted district community meetings in order to come up with a plan to bring in city water pipes.

Damaris Reyes said every time these meetings happen, hardly any people make appearances, which delays making changes.

“Besides the fact that there is not that many neighbors, I guess everyone has gotten used to it,” Damaris Reyes said.

Kimberly Valle may be reached at [email protected]