2019 CSCE Annual Conference - Laval (Greater Montreal) Conference
Dr. Kasey Faust, The University of Texas at Austin
Mr. Khalid Osman, University of Texas at Austin (Presenter)
Informal settlements, specifically colonias that are of interest to this study, are communities often located at the periphery of cities, with houses built piecemeal, and may lack access to or receive subpar infrastructure services. In the context of water infrastructure, residents from these communities may face problems, such as water pipes breaks or service interruptions. In addition to infrastructure problems, characteristic to these communities are high poverty rates that can limit the accessibility of service at the household level. This study seeks to assess the human-water infrastructure interactions between colonia residents and how residents use the services received in the household. Enabling this study is a survey distributed to residents of a non-border colonia in Central Texas (n=92) between March and June 2018. The survey sought information regarding residential housing conditions and interaction with infrastructure services. Questions related to interactions with the water infrastructure system are used to explore perceived levels of service, how tap water is used, and sources of drinking water whether from the system or alternative sources. Statistical inferencing and qualitative analyses will be used to explore the current perceived conditions of the water services, and identify relationships between the sources of drinking water (i.e., from the system or alternative), how residents interact with system (e.g., tap water uses), and socio-demographic factors. Descriptive statistics indicate that approximately half of the respondents have a monthly household income below US$2,000, 41% of respondents have had pipe breaks in the household, and that 50% of respondents prefer an alternative source of drinking water to the water supply system (e.g., bottled water). This study may assist policy-makers and utility managers in better understanding these human-infrastructure interactions in this classification of communities—a foundational step in improving the quality of services rendered. Furthermore, with the high levels of poverty, identifying means to improve the quality of water (or perceived quality of water) can aid in reducing the financial burden on residents who are seeking alternative sources outside of that provided by the system, ultimately, improving access.