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The Building of a New County Utility along the US/Mexican Border: Doña Ana County, New Mexico

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Doña Ana County (County) is the southern most County in New Mexico, bordered on the south by Mexico and the State of Texas. Doña Ana County is the second most populated County in New Mexico and covers approximately 3800 square miles. The close proximity to the border, the rich agriculture lands located in the County, the opportunity to own property, and the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have fostered the rapid unplanned growth of numerous “Colonias” communities. “Colonia” is a Spanish term for neighborhood or community and is used to refer to communities along the US/Mexico border that have inadequate water service, sewer systems, roads, and housing. The United States Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), as well as local agencies and Doña Ana County recognize the low standard of living, environmental threats and poor health conditions of these communities. Together, they have made efforts to identify resources to address the problems, one of which included congressional approval of special appropriations in the form of “Colonias” grants to support infrastructure for these unincorporated communities. After numerous years of developing projects with extensive planning and design efforts and establishing the means to operate first-time water and wastewater utility services, Doña Ana County is completing an initial phase of 58 million in infrastructure providing water service to the southern most region of the County and wastewater systems to 13 communities within 4 major regional wastewater areas throughout the County. The final completion of the initial phase is expected in the 4th quarter of 2003.

This paper presents an original and unique implementation for a large County utility development in New Mexico where typically counties do not provide utility infrastructure of this scale. This project has become the “FIRST” in many aspects and will have an impact on projects of this kind throughout the border region. The County is the FIRST in New Mexico to implement key elements such as multi-agency partnerships, cross border interactions, regional planning, and a Countywide Hook-up Program. Crucial components include building the foundation of a new utility, fostering of a progressive “Team” culture with extensive program management efforts, offering widespread community involvement; and implementing a countywide hook-up program.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2003

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