By Rhett Larson & Dylan Hendel.
Colonias are small, generally unincorporated communities of predominantly Hispanic residents located near the U.S./Mexico border that suffer disproportionately from water insecurity associated with inadequate drinking water quality and reliability and flooding risks. Many of the water insecurity challenges facing colonias’ residents stem from inadequacies in water law and environmental law. However, many legal obstacles to achieving water security in colonias stem from seemingly unrelated legal challenges, including voting rights, land title and land use issues, and lack of access to effective legal assistance, particularly in securing support from existing federal programs. Each of the four border states–Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California–have dealt with water insecurity challenges facing colonias in a variety of ways. In this article, we explore those challenges facing colonias’ residents in Arizona by examining available federal programs, approaches taken in other border states, and possible legal reforms and opportunities in water law and environmental law, as well as in voting rights and real property law.