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Open-File Report 2007-1230

Publications Warehouse OF 2007-1230

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

CHIPS: A New Way to Monitor Colonias Along the United States-Mexico Border

By Jean W. Parcher and Delbert G. Humberson

OF 2007-1230


Colonias, which are unincorporated border settlements in the United States, have emerged in rural areas without the governance and services normally provided by local government. Colonia residents live in poverty and lack adequate health care, potable water, and sanitation systems. These conditions create substantial health risks for colonias and surrounding communities. By 2001, more than 1,400 colonias were identified in Texas. Cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Offices of the Texas Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the Texas Water Development Board has allowed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to improve colonia Geographic Information System (GIS) boundaries and develop the Colonia Health, Infrastructure, and Platting Status tool (CHIPS). Together, the GIS boundaries and CHIPS aid the Texas government in prioritizing the limited funds that are available for infrastructure improvement. CHIPS’s report generator can be tailored to the needs of the user, providing either broad or specific output. For example, a congressman could use CHIPS to list colonias with wastewater issues in a specific county, whereas a health researcher could list all colonias without clinical access. To help cities along the United States-Mexico border manage issues related to colonias growth, CHIPS will become publicly available in an Internet-enabled GIS as part of a cooperative study between the USGS, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática.

Posted September 2007

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