Water Equity Clearinghouse



The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a nonprofit community design center that works to improve quality of life in communities through thoughtful design and placemaking. The organization focuses especially on affordable housing, smart growth that prioritizes infill, green infrastructure, and parks, story-telling and mapping to inform citizens, the advancement of data-driven decision making, investments in art and design initiatives, and the free sharing of information among the public to enrich communities. Since 2005, this organization has been bringing design thinking to under-resourced areas in Dallas, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

This organization is a leader in calling attention to the needs of underserved residents in the Rio Grande Valley. buildingcommunityWORKSHOP’s LUCHA initiative works with colonias, or informal residential areas that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing. LUCHA is a partnership between several organizations, including the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, Texas Low Income Housing Services, La Unión del Pueblo Entero, and A Resource in Serving Equality, all of which are described here.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP works closely with 15 representatives from each colonia to develop understanding and expertise around land use, public infrastructure, development, and water issues, to focus their top priorities, to identify possible solutions, and to craft state-level policy and legislative initiatives.

A significant source of worry in the colonias is the widespread flooding that occurs even after moderate rain events. Because these settlements are located outside of cities, there is a lack of proper stormwater management infrastructure, a privilege enjoyed by city dwellers. Thus, the Colonia Stormwater Low Impact Development & Open Space project seeks to build housing incorporating Low Impact Development principles, sustainable drainage infrastructure, and open space to mitigate flooding and provide recreational and gathering spaces. The project also focuses on educating both colonia residents and government officials about drainage challenges and the opportunities to improve stormwater infrastructure at the colonias through vegetated swales, permeable driveways to manage stormwater, shaded community amenity buildings, and other Low Impact Development strategies. The Hacienda Casitas housing project is one example of how buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is implementing principles of stormwater management into building practices. Located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, La Hacienda is built on a site designed to filter and drain runoff using a series of bioswales and planting zones, which reduces the impact of floods in the region.