EL PASO — Olga Thomas has a story about every plant in her garden. The creosote that her mother would brew into a medicinal tea. The ocotillo planted from seed that now towers over her. The prickly pear cactus that blooms yellow each spring.
Thomas, 72, began her garden in the late 1990s when she moved to a “colonia” 30 miles from downtown El Paso called Hueco Tanks. She raised her five children on this patch of land in the Chihuahuan Desert, transforming the rugged two-acre plot into a home.
“It’s my little sanctuary, my oasis out here,” she said.
Hueco Tanks is among the dozens of colonias — unincorporated communities mostly in border counties — in Texas where low-income, Latino residents still are not connected to municipal water. But now, Thomas has a source of safe drinking water at home for the first time.
In late 2022, the Arizona-based company SOURCE Global installed hydro-panels at her property that capture and purify water from the atmosphere. The panels use solar-powered fans to pull water vapor out of the air. Warm air inside the panel then liquifies the water vapor. Minerals are added to the water for health and taste.
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