Hydro panels help small Dallas County communities get reliable drinking water

SANDBRANCH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) Most people take running water for granted and don’t think twice when they turn on their faucets. But a small community in Dallas County has been without drinking water for decades.

Now, thanks to new technology, things are finally changing.

Sandbranch is a community rich in history. Founded by freed slaves in 1878, this freedmen’s settlement flourished.

“It was thriving, the kids were playing in the street,” said Phyllis Gage, who owns a home in Sandbranch.

But today it feels firmly in the past. Residents said that because there is no dustbin, they have to burn their waste.

Even worse, there is no running water.

“It’s really unbelievable that people still have to use this water that’s undrinkable, it’s terrible,” Gage added.

She also said the wells are contaminated after being built decades ago. “The well is so old that sand has built up in the water, so you can’t drink it.”

So they depend on bottled water to survive.

“I have to bring bottled water here to my dad right now to even flush the toilets because the well isn’t working,” Gage said.

“This community deserves better and what I see happening in this community should not happen anywhere in the United States,” said Tonnette Byrd, who advocates for improvements to Sandbranch.

Byrd wanted to do something to help this community, so she partnered with several organizations, including Source Global, to provide hydro panels to help provide water to residents.

Hydro panels, which are large and sit outside a house, run on solar energy. Two are needed to work.

“The hydro panels are powered by internal fans and extract water from the atmosphere,” Byrd explained.

They’re expensive — about $8,000 each — so they’re looking at ways to raise money for the 100 or so residents who live here.

“The technology is there, we just need to tap into those resources,” Byrd added.

However, the panels are only a temporary option. The goal of having reliable running drinking water remains the same.

“There’s history here and we’re not treating people right,” Byrd said.

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