Journal of Sustainable Social Change




Lack of access to potable water through a conveyance system impacts all aspects of modern life. Many colonias, communities in the Southwestern United States along the U.S.–Mexico border, continue to lack access to piped and treated water. This article discusses a model for the pathway from lack of access to water to lack of high school completion, including intermediary conditions impacting wellness, health, and quality of life for community members. A facilitated discussion with five environmental and public health experts who frequently work in the colonias of El Paso County, Texas (border communities that resemble the developing world), established common themes found in these communities. This process mapped the pathway from lack of access to water to noncompletion of high school for residents of the colonias. Further analysis of the pathway led to a model that describes these conditions in terms of built, cultural, human, and political capitals using the capital community framework (Emery & Flora, 2008). The resulting model determines local community investments for advancing positive effects on the beginning, intermediary, and end conditions in the pathway, which have the capacity to positively impact education outcomes. The resulting model can be used to inform policy makers in making investment decisions for developing communities throughout the world including those that face devastation and are in the process of rebuilding sustainable infrastructure with limited financial capital.